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A Simple Lab Project Integrating Theoretical, Numerical, and Experimental Stress Analysis

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering Mechanics Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.101.1 - 22.101.12

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Paper Authors


Peter Schuster California Polytechnic State University

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Peter Schuster is an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly State University. His areas of interest are design, stress analysis, and biomechanics.

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A Simple Lab Project Integrating Closed-form, Numerical, and Experimental Stress AnalysisLearning is enhanced when students consider problems from different perspectives.Unfortunately, in most stress analysis courses, the depth of the mathematical analysis and limitedtime and resources restricts the focus to traditional closed-form solutions occasionallysupplemented with simple demonstrations. In order to enhance student engagement andunderstanding, a lab mini-project was developed for teaching Castigliano’s method for structuralanalysis in a stress analysis course.The mini-project consists of a design evaluation task which is investigated using three differentmethods: closed-form analysis, finite element analysis, and simple model build and test. Thetask is to select the better of two alternative support structures for a heavy-duty material-handlingconveyor belt. Acceptance criteria in the form of maximum deflection and stress are provided.The closed-form analysis is conducted using Castigliano’s method. A beam finite element modelis built and analyzed in Abaqus CAE. The simple models are constructed with Pasco StructuresSystem components and tested with simple weights and scales.The strengths of this combined approach are that the students (a) gain experience with the threedifferent methods of stress/deflection analysis, (b) compare the different methods on a singleproblem, and (c) check or confirm their own results. By using existing finite element softwarelicenses and available Pasco components, the project took no additional lab time and noadditional cost to implement.During the build and test phase of the project, students were much more engaged (discussing,changing approach) than in prior years when only the closed-form analysis was included.Student closed-form analysis results were also more complete, with fewer (20% versus 40%) ofthe student groups forgetting to include parts of the structure in their Castigliano’s analysis. Onevaluation forms, students commented that they enjoyed comparing results between the threemethods, and appreciated having something physical to test rather than just performingcalculations.

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