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Applications Of Finite Element Analysis For Undergraduates

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching Mechanics

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.216.1 - 7.216.7



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Paper Authors

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Nick Salamon

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Gautam Wagle

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Cliff Lissenden

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 3568

Applications of Finite Element Analysis for Undergraduates

C.J. Lissenden, G.S. Wagle, and N.J. Salamon

Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Penn State University

Abstract The Engineering Science and Mechanics department and the Mechanical Engineering department at Penn State share responsibility for teaching an undergraduate course on finite element analysis applications. We present one approach for teaching this course. Instructors can approach a course like this in a variety of ways. Faculty, students, and industry generally disagree as to what the learning objectives of this course should be. Furthermore, it is very difficult to get consensus from any one of these three groups. Should the focus be on using commercial software? On writing software? On the finite element method itself? On understanding finite element results? Our course objectives are to produce students capable of undertaking linear finite element modeling, who understand the basics of how commer cial software packages work and the results they give, and what errors could be present. We describe the course content, which includes a mix between the finite element method and applications using a commercial software package. Special attention is given to each of the four projects that are assigned during a semester, with emphasis on learning objectives, project specifics, and student results. The students use the PRO/MECHANICA software package for these projects. While these projects change somewhat from semester to semester they generally cover: (1) plane stress elements, (2) axisymmetric elements, (3) frame elements, and (4) solid elements. In the most recent semester, students were provided a solid model of a bicycle crank arm for one project and were asked to perform a stress analysis of the crank arm. Students presented their results to students in an advanced mechanics of materials course who were designing a crank arm for their class project. In this way students were introduced to how finite element modeling fits into the design process.

Background The course, “Applied Finite Element Analysis” is a technical elective for undergraduates at Penn State University. It is cross-listed as an Engineering Mechanics course and a Mechanical Engineering course. While different instructors treat the course differently, the first author requires only that students have taken an elementary mechanics of materials course. The first two thirds of the semester are devoted to traditional engineering education; in-class lectures, textbook reading, homework assignments, and in-class examinations. The focus of the class is on the finite element method itself, which is broken down into seven steps: 1. Discretize the continuous system into finite elements 2. Describe the element connectivity at the nodal points 3. Determine the element response in terms of nodal variables 4. Assemble the global system of equations

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Salamon, N., & Wagle, G., & Lissenden, C. (2002, June), Applications Of Finite Element Analysis For Undergraduates Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10250

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