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An Integrated Freshman Project Course Combining Finite Element Modeling, Engineering Analysis, and Experimental Investigation

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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

FPD X: First-Year Design with Projects, Modeling, and Simulation

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.184.1 - 22.184.14



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Paper Authors


Ani Ural Villanova University

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Ani Ural is an assistant professor in the Department
of Mechanical Engineering at Villanova
University. She received her B.S. degree in 1997
from Bogazici University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees
in 1999 and 2004 from Cornell University. She was
a postdoctoral research associate in the Department
of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute between 2004 and 2007. She
held a Visiting Assistant Professor position at
Stony Brook University in Spring 2007. She joined
Villanova University in Fall 2007. Her research interests include computational biomechanics, fracture mechanics, and solid mechanics.

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Joseph Robert Yost Villanova University

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Joseph Robert Yost is an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Villanova University, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in structural engineering mechanics and design.

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David W Dinehart Villanova University

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Assistant Chairman, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Shawn P. Gross Villanova University

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Shawn Gross is an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Villanova University, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in structural engineering and engineering mechanics.

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An Integrated Freshman Project Course Combining Finite Element Modeling, Engineering Analysis and Experimental InvestigationEngineering analysis, design and research investigation must rely on computational theory andexperimental evaluation. In order to effectively prepare undergraduate students for engineeringpractice and advanced study in graduate school, it is necessary to build knowledge in these areasthroughout the engineering curriculum, starting from the first year. However, in a typical civil ormechanical undergraduate engineering curriculum, students are not exposed to basic stressanalysis and force-deformation mechanics until the second semester of the sophomore year, andthey typically have opportunity to first take upper level courses in finite element modeling andexperimental techniques in the junior and senior years. Interestingly, the fundamental conceptscentral too much of this course work are understood much earlier in the student's education.That is, students understand from observation and common experience the meaning of conceptscentral to engineering mechanics and physical force-deformation behavior. Examples include anintuitive understanding of tension and compression, axial deformation and bending deformation,buckling, twisting, and elastic and plastic behavior. The value of this basic level understandingis that it can be elevated beyond intuition and connected in a mathematical and experimentalsense to a higher level understanding of engineering analysis, design and experimentalinvestigation. That is, with creative instructional development that integrates theory withexperimental investigation, the freshman student can be educated so that engineering modelingand analysis become quantitative tools to study what is already understood in a qualitative sense.This paper describes a freshman year introductory project based course that integrates aspects offinite element modeling, stress, strain and deformation analysis, and experimental investigation.Integration of these topics occurs via study of cellular steel beams, which are defined as steel I-beams having circular web voids along their length. A cellular beam is formed by cuttingalternating semicircular and straight line patterns along the web. When cutting is completed thebeam halves are separated, longitudinally shifted, and welded back together to form a new,deeper section (Fig. 1). Students are introduced to cellular beam technology and the economythat is derived based on the higher order relationship that exists between stiffness and beamdepth. A cellular beam is selected for study, as well as the root beam from which that cellularbeam is fabricated. The root beam and cellular version are modeled using the finite elementtechnique, and then tested in the laboratory (Fig. 2). Sensor technology used in testing includesload cells, linear variable deflection transducers, and strain gages. So that students have anunderstanding of strain sensor technology, they are also introduced to the basics of theWheatstone bridge and how a strain gage functions. The experience allows for the fullintegration of analysis, sensor technology and experimental investigation (Fig. 3). Finally, at theconclusion of the course students are required to write a technical report and make a technicalpresentation on the experience. The emphasis here is on the importance of effective written andoral communication in an engineering profession.Full details related to course development and structure, lecture content and method of delivery,and outcomes and learning assessment will be presented. WELD (see Fig. 2.3) WASTE WASTE Figure 1: Manufacturing of a cellular beamTest beams x 31) Root Beam W8x152) Castellated Version P P P = Applied Load from3) Cellular Version Hydraulic Cylinders Shear Span Shear Span Support a = 82 in. 12 in. a = 82 in. (typ.) Figure 2: Test setup for cellular beam in the laboratory Analytical Part Experimental Part • Create beam model • Test cellular beam identical to • Input load, support, cross analytical beam in lab. section, & material properties. • Measure load, stress and • Calculate stresses and deflection. deflections for model • Plot results, observe measured conditions. behavior & compare to analysis. • Also use flexural stress formula.   Y Z X Diagnostic Part • Introduce technology related to experimental stress analysis. • Develop understanding of stress measuring sensors (strain gages). Figure 3: Integration of analysis, instrumentation and experimental investigation

Ural, A., & Yost, J. R., & Dinehart, D. W., & Gross, S. P. (2011, June), An Integrated Freshman Project Course Combining Finite Element Modeling, Engineering Analysis, and Experimental Investigation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17465

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