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A Technical Elective Course in Modeling and Simulation - Teaching the Capabilities and Limitations of Professional-level Software

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Modeling and Simulation

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Gregory K Watkins P.E. California State University - Chico

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Gregory Watkins received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University, a Master of Engineering Management from Old Dominion University, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is a Professor in the department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and Sustainable Manufacturing at California State University Chico. He previously taught in the Engineering Technology department at UNC Charlotte and the Engineering Technologies Division at Central Piedmont Community College. He also has nine years of industrial work experience.

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The mechanical engineering program at "name of institution" includes a standard junior level course in Finite Element Analysis (FEA). Students learn the theory of the method and receive some basic instruction in the proper use of commercial software, SolidWorks Simulation in this case. Due to time constraints and the necessary instruction in FEA theory, the exposure to commercial software is limited to basic linear elastic studies. While important concepts such as element choice, mesh quality, and appropriate boundary conditions are covered, no advanced capabilities, such as nonlinear analysis or time dependency, are explored.

In response to student demand for a follow-on course in Finite Element Analysis, a technical elective course titled Modeling and Simulation was developed. The course carries pre-requisites of solid modeling, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, finite elements, and machine design. The primary intent of the course is to explore the advanced capabilities of professional level simulation software while importantly understanding the underlying assumptions and limitations of the various analysis techniques. Expected outcomes include giving students wide exposure to advanced simulation tools they are likely to encounter in the workplace while equipping them sufficient understanding of their proper use and limitations.

Two commercial software packages are utilized in the course, SolidWorks Simulation Professional and ADINA (Automatic Dynamic Incremental Nonlinear Analysis). SolidWorks is chosen due the students' existing knowledge of its solid modeling capabilities from earlier courses in engineering graphics and computer aided design (CAD), along with its strong presence in industry. Adina is introduced as a highly advanced simulation code more typically utilized in research settings, with significant capabilities beyond most commonly used commercial software options.

Advanced simulation techniques based on the finite element method include assemblies with contact and friction, dynamic motion, design optimization, non-linear material behavior, and buckling. Time dependency is introduced in the context of impact problems, and is re-introduced in thermal studies, which also include the effects thermal stress. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), based on the finite volume method, is introduced with applications in internal and external flow. CFD studies are also presented to include time dependency and coupled thermal effects. Finally, problems in Fluid-Solid Interaction (FSI) are covered.

Pedagogically, the course is targeted to seniors but is taught more in the format of a graduate class, with open ended assignments that require student research outside of class activities. Student work is submitted in the form of a technical memo modeled to represent what a working engineer would generate for an internal client such as a boss or technically competent manager. This paper details the course content, topics, and pedagogy, and is intended as a model for those that may consider offering a similar class in the future. Lessons learned from two editions of the class are included, as are best practices achieved through feedback from past students now working in industry, as well as industry managers that typically hire program graduates.

Watkins, G. K. (2016, June), A Technical Elective Course in Modeling and Simulation - Teaching the Capabilities and Limitations of Professional-level Software Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26467

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