Role of commercial software in teaching finite element analysis at undergraduate level: a case study

Shaikh, Faiz Uddin Ahmed
December 2012
Engineering Education;Dec2012, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p2
Academic Journal
Case Study
Finite element analysis (FEA) is an advanced analysis method in structural engineering. In most universities around the world, it is still offered at postgraduate level due to the vast amount of complex theoretical content which is beyond the capacity of undergraduate students. In the past, FEA was mostly used in research and specialised jobs through the use of inhouse computer programs. However, with the advancement of computer technology and numerical solution techniques, specialised FEA software in structural analysis and design is now commercially available and used widely in the industry. The FEA results provide the engineer/ designer with insight into the stress and strain distributions of a structure, something which is not possible or is at best time-consuming using conventional analytical methods. The user-friendly nature of new generation FEA software can enhance the teaching and learning experience of advanced structural analysis and can provide students with the satisfaction of learning by discovery and deep understanding. This paper presents the author's observations and experience of the use of general purpose FEA software 'Strand7' in the teaching and learning of finite element analysis of structural problems in the final year undergraduate class at Curtin University. A brief description of theoretical course content and the strategic use of Strand7 software to supplement students' understanding of FEA theory and its use in the problembased FEA assignment is provided. It is observed that the use of Strand7 greatly helped students' understanding of the FEA of structures. The feedback from students shows that exposure to Strand7 in their tutorials and assignment projects helped their development in the advanced analysis of structures using finite element methods and increased their preparedness for engineering practice or graduate school after graduation.


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