Asee peer logo

Board # 85 : Introducing the Galerkin Method of Weighted Residuals into an Undergraduate Elective Course in Finite Element Methods

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Aneet Dharmavaram Narendranath Michigan Technological University

visit author page

Dr.Aneet Dharmavaram Narendranath is currently a Lecturer at Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech). He received a PhD in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering mechanics in 2013. Subsequently, he worked as a visiting assistant professor at Michigan Tech from 2013-2014 and then as an Engineer at the French Nuclear Commission (CEA) in France until 2015. His research interests are mathematical modeling of fluid physics. His pedagogical interests are development of mathematically oriented coures in mechanical engineering.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Modern day finite element method (post 1940s-50s) as taught in undergraduate level (senior level) electives shows bifurcation from classical methods (pre 1900s) in at least its abstraction from rigorous mathematical concepts through the use of powerful software tools. However, it is beneficial for students of this powerful approximation technique, that is the FEM, to be made aware of the demarcation between classical methods and computer tool based analysis.

The overall objective is to introduce the Galerkin method of weighted residuals for linear ordinary differential equations and to extend that idea to linear, steady state problems in structural mechanics and thermal transport. Exposure to the Galerkin method allows students to connect differential equation based mathematical models to plane-problems in elasticity, lubrication theory problems in fluid dynamics and steady state thermal transport problems. Students are made aware of the concept of "global" vs "local" shape functions, "element order", "convergence" and "error".

The Poisson's equation u''(x)=f is primarily utilized to build the students' confidence in solving differential equations and applying the Galerkin method. This allows students to forge a connection between differential equations and simple linear (yet powerful) mathematical models. An incremental approach is taken by making the Poisson's equation complicated by including function, f, of increasing complexity. Students find appropriate polynomial functions for use in the Galerkin method of weighted residual for the Poisson's equation.

Finally, MATLAB and its partial differential equation toolbox, pdetool, is used to connect the Galerkin Method to classical engineering problems. How boundary conditions could have an effect of reducing a 2-D problem to a 1-D problem was explored. This exercise allowed students to be conscientious of boundary conditions and the variety and applicability thereof, as evidenced through examination and homework assignment results.

Homework assignments, examinations, end of semester design problem/project and student exit surveys are used as metrics to check efficacy of pedagogy.

ABET: a,b,e,g,i,k

Dharmavaram Narendranath, A. (2017, June), Board # 85 : Introducing the Galerkin Method of Weighted Residuals into an Undergraduate Elective Course in Finite Element Methods Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27941

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015