Asee peer logo

Collaborating with Industry Partner within an Undergraduate Finite Element Course

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

Teams, Capstone Courses, and Project Based-Learning

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Julian Ly Davis University of Southern Indiana

visit author page

Jul is an Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Southern Indiana (USI). He received his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in Engineering Mechanics in 2007. He spent a semester teaching at community college in the area and then spent two years at University of Massachusetts continuing his research in finite element modeling and biomechanics and continuing to teach. He has been at USI since 2010.

visit author page


Natasha Smith P.E. University of Southern Indiana

visit author page

Dr. Smith is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern Indiana.

visit author page


Michael McLeod Accuride Corporation

visit author page

Michael McLeod is a Senior Project engineer with Accuride Corporation devoted to numerical simulation and analysis of steel and aluminum wheel products for the commercial truck industry. He has 30+ years of experience of analysis experience including finite element analysis. His academic background started with Bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering degree from Auburn University and continued with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Alabama in Huntsville.

visit author page

Download Paper |


One of the ABET outcomes for engineering students is that they have the ability to apply engineering principles to solve problems. In addition, students should have the ability to analyze and synthesize results that meet desired constraints within a problem. Early in a student’s career, as they begin to acquire the analysis tools and methods, there may be few opportunities for application to real world projects with consideration for complex problems or situations. However, in the junior or senior level courses, students should be afforded more and more opportunities to incorporate engineering analysis, design and synthesis. An undergraduate finite element analysis (FEA) course provides an excellent opportunity to do so through project based learning. This experience is further enriched with industry collaboration to develop a project with real-world design objectives and constraints.

This paper discusses a semester finite element project developed by Accuride Corporation, in which students are asked to design and analyze an aluminum commercial truck wheel. The students were given a generic model that provides limits of the physical design space as well as guidance on boundary conditions to account for inflation pressure, tire interface loads, and vehicle loading. They had a goal to minimize vehicle weight given constraints on maximum stresses and deformation. In addition, they were encouraged to develop attractive styling as with hand hole geometry and placement. Students presented their final designs in writing and orally before a panel which included faculty members and Accuride engineers. They were evaluated on final weight, style, presentation, and analysis, with the latter making up the bulk of the score.

The project provided several opportunities for students to connect directly with real world design issues in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without the industry partnership. For one, students felt the pressure of competition to achieve the lightest wheel, just as Accuride must keep pace with industry competitors to maintain or grow their market share. In addition, they were held accountable for weaknesses in their analysis process. For example, the industry panel quickly identified sharp corners and other unnecessary stress concentrations as design flaws when a student’s finite element analysis failed to detect them. Finally, students were pressed on how they validated their analyses. Finally, the project revealed areas for improvement for the finite element course itself, particularly to help students synthesize FEA with concepts and tools from earlier courses.

Davis, J. L., & Smith, N., & McLeod, M. (2017, June), Collaborating with Industry Partner within an Undergraduate Finite Element Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28046

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