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Online Finite Element Tutorials as Active Learning Tools

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Design Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1121.1 - 22.1121.24



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Paper Authors


Daniel D. Jensen U.S. Air Force Academy

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Dr. Dan Jensen is a Professor of Engineering Mechanics at the U.S. Air Force Academy where he has been since 1997. He received his B.S. (Mechanical Engineering), M.S. (Applied Mechanics) and Ph.D. (Aerospace Engineering Science) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has worked for Texas Instruments, Lockheed Martin, NASA, University of the Pacific, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and MSC Software Corp. His research includes development of innovative design methodologies and enhancement of engineering education.

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Kristin L. Wood University of Texas, Austin

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Kristin Wood is the Cullen Trust Endowed Professor in Engineering and the University Distinguished Teaching Professor at The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Wood’s current research interests focus on innovative product design, development, and evolution. The current and near-future objective of this research is to develop design strategies, representations, and languages that will result in more comprehensive design tools, innovation processes, innovative manufacturing techniques, and design teaching aids at the college, pre-college, and industrial levels. Contact:

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Joseph J. Rencis University of Arkansas

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Joseph J. Rencis is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He was Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering from 2004 to 2010. He held the inaugural endowed Twenty-first Century Leadership Chair in Mechanical Engineering from 2007 to 2010. From 1985 to 2004, he was professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His research focuses on boundary element methods, finite element methods, atomistic modeling, and engineering education. He currently serves on the editorial board of Engineering Analysis with Boundary Elements and is associate editor of the international Series on Advances in Boundary Elements. He is the current Past Chair of the ASME Mechanical Engineering Department Heads Committee, Current Past Chair of the ASEE Mechanical Engineering Division, and an ABET program evaluator. He currently serves as Chair-Elect of the ASEE Midwest Section. He also currently serves on the Academic Advisory Board of the College of Engineering at United Arab Emirates University. He received the 2002 ASEE New England Section Teacher of Year Award, 2004 ASEE New England Section Outstanding Leader Award, 2006 ASEE Mechanics Division James L. Meriam Service Award, and 2009 ASEE Midwest Section Service Award. Dr. Rencis is a fellow of ASME and ASEE. He received a B.S. from Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1980, a M.S. from Northwestern University in 1982, and a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in 1985. V-mail: 479-575-3386; E-mail:

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Ashland O. Brown P.E. University of the Pacific

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Ashland O. Brown
Mechanical Engineering
University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Ave.
Stockton, CA 95219
Tel (209) 946-3091, Fax (209) 946-3081

Ph.D., 1974 Mechanical Engineering from University of Connecticut M.Sc., 1968 Mechanical Engineering from University of Connecticut B.Sc., 1966 Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University

Professional Experience

1991- Present Professor of Mechanical Engineering University of the Pacific

1998-1999 Program Director, Engineering Directorate National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA

1991-1998 Dean, School of Engineering University of the Pacific

Principal Investigator of six-person team of investigators, for NSF CCLI Phase I Award of $151,679. For three years “Finite Element Method Exercises for use in Undergraduate Engineering Education Awarded in March 2006 and supplemented in September 2008. Website established
For Finite Element Learning Modules

Selected publications
• Integrating Fatigue Analysis into Machine Design Course or Finite Element Course Presented at the September 2008 American Society for Engineering Education’s Midwest Section Meeting by Josh Coffman, Sachin Terdalkar, Joseph Rencis and Ashland O. Brown.
• Finite Element Learning Modules for Undergraduate Engineering Topics using Commercial Software, presented at the June 2008 American Society for Engineering Education’s Annual Conference in Pittsburg, PA, Co-authored with Drs. Chuan-Chiang Chen, Daniel Jensen, Essam Ibrahim, Vladimir Labay, Joseph Rencis and Paul Schimpf
• Enhancing Machine Design and Analysis Course through Introducing Design and FE Analysis Projects, presented at the March 2008 American Society for Engineering Education’s Pacific Southwest Regional Conference at the Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz. Co-authored with Dr. Jiancheng Liu.

Current Research Areas
Laser measurements of Human Masticatory Muscle Activity, Structural Analysis of Structural Systems using Finite Elements, Fatigue Analysis of Structural Systems, Finite Element Analysis of Nanotechnology System Designs, Engineering Design of Biosystems.

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Christina Kay White Columbia University

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Engineering Education for Social and Environmental Justice is a passion in Christina’s scholarship and profession. She facilitates K-16 engineering experiences towards actively engaging in democratic practices. This is done through her interdisciplinary and international curriculum development and teaching. Her dissertation research is entitled “Taking HEED: Intersections of Women’s Lives in Humanitarian Engineering Experiences and Design.” From her U.S.-patented Automated Assistive Guitar Playing Device to leading the Design, Technology, Engineering for All Children (DTEACh) program to co-facilitating LSU’s High School Teachers Engineering Awareness Program summer institute, Christina’s practices and research inform ways that we understand engineering education and innovation in our diverse and dynamic ecology.

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Online Finite Element Tutorials as Active Learning Tools The purpose of active learning is to solicit participation by students beyond thepassive mode of classroom lectures. Reading, writing, participating in discussions, andengaging in active problem solving can all be involved. The skills acquired during activelearning tend to go above and beyond basic comprehension of the lesson. In fact, thegoal of active learning is to not only enable student comprehension, but also to assiststudents in cultivating valuable aptitudes for synthesizing, analyzing, and evaluatingideas. These aptitudes capture a significantly larger portion of the Bloom’s taxonomythen would be available in a “lecture focused” classroom structure. One model for active learning comes to us in the form of tutorials, or activelearning modules, aimed at improving student learning in historically difficult subjectareas in engineering through the use of finite element analysis. The tutorial set developedhere includes learning modules for various subject areas in Mechanical, Electrical, andBiomedical Engineering courses. The aim of this study is to determine if tutorials of this type are in fact effectiveactive learning tools. In each participating course, after a student completes theirtraditional lecture series, they are introduced to a computer-based tutorial. In order toperform a baseline study, students are administered content quizzes before and after thetutorial. These quiz results are statistically analyzed to determine if comprehension isimproved due to the tutorials. With a novel equitability correlation assessment method,we are able to judge if these tutorials afford all students with an equitable active learningprocess experience. The innovative approach is to integrate learning styles andpersonality types for this equitability assessment. The active learning modules prove tobe an exciting step towards improving comprehension of the challenging engineeringcontent in an active learning environment.

Jensen, D. D., & Wood, K. L., & Rencis, J. J., & Brown, A. O., & White, C. K. (2011, June), Online Finite Element Tutorials as Active Learning Tools Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18855

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