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Integration Of Finite Element Software In Undergraduate Engineering Courses

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.626.1 - 6.626.15

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Paper Authors

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Rhonda Lee

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Vincent R. Capece

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John Baker

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

Session 1520

Integration of Finite Element Software in Undergraduate Engineering Courses

John R. Baker, Vincent R. Capece, Rhonda J. Lee University of Kentucky


Computer-based engineering analysis tools have become more powerful and user- friendly in recent years. Most commercial software packages are now available for use on standard Windows-based PC’s. Aided by increases in readily available computing power, finite element analysis (FEA) codes, in particular, have gained widespread use. FEA is now considered by many to be a standard tool for engineers. This paper outlines the incorporation of assignments based on the commercial FEA code, ANSYS, into standard lecture courses in mechanical and chemical engineering. It is now typical, at least in mechanical engineering (ME) curricula, to include course(s) specific to FEA, and these courses often include use of commercial FEA codes. Now that these codes have become more user-friendly and their plotting and animating capabilities have become more sophisticated, they can be used effectively to illustrate concepts encountered in a range of undergraduate engineering courses. The examples included in this paper are from three courses: heat transfer, fluid mechanics, and mechanical vibrations. The FEA assignments are used to complement core lecture material in the courses. They are designed so that no previous ANSYS experience, or FEA background, is required. In addition to aiding students in understanding the basic theory related to specific courses, incorporation of the software in a range of courses should increase students’ awareness of the broad applicability of general-purpose FEA codes, and the advantages of using these codes as tools. It seems reasonable to expect that engineers in the 21st century will need to be comfortable with the use of FEA software and other types of analysis software in order to be effective in the workplace. Limiting student use of FEA codes to only FEA courses may not provide sufficient emphasis to the idea that these codes can be used to an engineer’s advantage in many scenarios.

1. Introduction

With recent advances in computing power, commercial finite element analysis (FEA) codes have gained widespread use. FEA is now the predominant tool in stress analysis of mechanical components, and is widely used in other types of engineering analyses, such as heat transfer, fluid flow, and vibrations. While not all engineering students will become FEA practitioners, all will need a good grasp of the wide ranging capabilities, and also the limitations of FEA. Also, one of the ABET criteria is familiarity with modern engineering tools, and FEA certainly fits that category.

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Lee, R., & Capece, V. R., & Baker, J. (2001, June), Integration Of Finite Element Software In Undergraduate Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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