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Real Time, Non Linear, Dynamic Simulation In Teaching Structures: Elementary To Advanced

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1059.1 - 10.1059.14



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Paper Authors

author page

Kirk Martini

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

Section 1526

Real-time, Non-linear, Dynamic Simulation in Teaching Structures: Elementary to Advanced Kirk Martini Department of Architecture, University of Virginia


The paper describes a project to develop software and teaching methods which employ real-time non-linear dynamic structural simulation in topics ranging from introductory statics to advanced steel design and earthquake engineering. The software is called Arcade and its computation method is based on a physics engine, a method which has been widely applied in computer games. The physics engine approach can easily model unstable structures with very large displacements, making it well suited to study post-buckling behavior, cable structures, and plastic collapse mechanisms. The program performs computations in real time, so that models respond instantly to input from the keyboard and mouse with a game-like interface. While the program has proven effective in lecture demonstrations and course assignments for studying non- linear behavior in an advanced steel design course, its ability to model unstable structures also makes it useful in teaching elementary statics, since it can model the response of free-floating bodies to unbalanced forces. In addition, its visual presentation makes it suitable for non- engineering students, and the program has been used to teach statics in architecture courses. The program is also ideally suited to teaching concepts of structural redundancy and anti-terror design, since it is possible to see the response of a structure when members are removed interactively: e.g. removing a member from a loaded truss by clicking on the member. The paper describes the program and the teaching methods that have employed it, including lecture demonstrations, a homework problem, and a laboratory exercise.


There is a well established and sensible tradition in engineering education that a curriculum begins with basic subjects and then incrementally increases the range of phenomena considered and the sophistication of their analysis. In structural engineering education, this tradition means that statics and mechanics of materials are taught before structural analysis, that static analysis is taught before dynamic analysis, and that linear analysis is taught before non-linear analysis.

As computer-based analysis has become common in engineering education, it has followed this tradition. As typical curricula progress, students use computational tools commensurate with their theoretical knowledge, beginning with static linear analysis and working their way up to more complex methods accounting for dynamics and non-linear phenomena.

This paper describes a project which turns this tradition around, demonstrating that advanced computational methods can be used effectively not only for advanced topics, but also for elementary topics. The project centers on a computer program, called Arcade, which applies non-

Martini, K. (2005, June), Real Time, Non Linear, Dynamic Simulation In Teaching Structures: Elementary To Advanced Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15214

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