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Classical Analysis Techniques Set The Stage For Mastery Of Computer Analysis Methods

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Are Classical Solutions Outdated?

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.309.1 - 9.309.18



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Paper Authors

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Jammie Hoskin

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Brad Wambeke

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Ronald Welch

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

Session 3515

Classical Analysis Techniques Set the Stage for Mastery of Computer Analysis Techniques

MAJ Brad Wambeke MAJ Jammie Hoskin COL Ronald W. Welch United States Military Academy


This paper describes the successful use of classical analysis techniques by the ABET- accredited CE program at the U.S. Military Academy to assist students in unlocking the mysteries embedded in commercial structural analysis programs that are based on the Direct Stiffness Method. We believe that students must understand the basic assumptions inherent in the classical methods that subtly choreograph structural behavior before they can confidently and competently perform black box structural analyses. We find that students understand these assumptions best when they have an opportunity to work through each of the classical methods prior to attacking the Direct Stiffness Method by hand—aided by appropriate software to perform computations and matrix manipulations, and then by comparing the classical analysis results to commercially available structural analysis programs.

In our first Structural Analysis course at the U.S. Military Academy, students explore structural analysis through the use of both classical (Virtual Work, Slope Deflection, and Moment Distribution) and commercially available structural analysis programs. Each classical method highlights key basics of structural behavior and sets the stage for developing connectivity between the classical hand methods and today’s computer techniques. In our Advanced Structural Analysis course, students learn and apply the Direct Stiffness Method in three different blocks of instruction—Trusses, Beams, and Frames. In each block, we develop the direct stiffness formulation of the appropriate structural element, many times using a classical analysis technique to complete the structural element development, and then we have the students work through one or more problems involving the analysis of a relatively simple structure. In every case, the students analyze the same structure using classical and computer-based applications. The classical methods set the stage for walking through the Direct Stiffness Method inherent in most commercial analysis packages through the use of Excel spreadsheet software to perform matrix manipulations and MathCAD computational software to perform mathematical computations required as part of the Direct Stiffness Method. The results from the classical methods, manual direct stiffness analysis and commercial applications are compared to more fully provide connectivity between the techniques and inherent assumptions.

This paper describes the courses and the use of the classical methods to provide insight into the computer-based black box analysis packages. It also provides an example of a typical student homework problem as well as student assessment data demonstrating the

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference& Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Hoskin, J., & Wambeke, B., & Welch, R. (2004, June), Classical Analysis Techniques Set The Stage For Mastery Of Computer Analysis Methods Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13914

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