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Modeling In A Composite Beam Design Lab

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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

Modeling in Materials Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.869.1 - 7.869.7



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Modeling in a Composite Beam Design Lab Craig Johnson Central Washington University


This research explores the use of computer modeling in an undergraduate materials course laboratory exercise. Modeling a beam can enhance learning beyond the traditional beam construction, hand analysis and test evaluation scenario. In our Composites courses MET382 (Plastics) and MET483 (Ceramics), there is a laboratory exercise in which wood core and fiberglass beams are designed and built. A traditional approach is followed; the beams are designed, their stiffness is predicted, and they are mechanically tested for stiffness. A number of parameters are discussed and used, such as geometry and volume fraction. However, the effect and importance of these parameters on mechanical behavior can be hard to grasp. Hand analysis is cumbersome, and may not be friendly to relational analysis.

Modeling can address these issues by allowing the student to readily change material and dimensional parameters to observe their consequences on mechanical behavior. This approach has been successfully used in other MET Program courses such Mechanics of Materials and Technical Dynamics. Examples include the effect of length on the moment of a cantilever beam and the effect of various beam shapes on mechanical behavior.

This study focuses on the use of spreadsheets and more capable modeling programs, such as MDSolidsTM, to support analyses in a specific laboratory exercise entitled: ‘Composite Beam Design’.


Modeling and applying design analysis is a high order learning activity. Simple structural models with hand analysis are commonly used 1, but computers have enhanced the accessibility of more complex analyses. In specific, analyses using spreadsheets have been used to enhance a composite beam design laboratory.

The Composite Beam Design laboratory exercise has been used for five years since the creation of the MET382 Plastics and Composites course. It is a popular laboratory done during the final weeks of the10-week quarter. Students coming into this elective course are required to have Chemistry, but not a materials course. This broadens the diversity of students in the course, and creates a tight schedule regarding inclusion of basic skills, processes and applications.

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

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Johnson, C. (2002, June), Modeling In A Composite Beam Design Lab Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10985

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