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Structural Analysis Courses: Computers Or Fundamentals

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Are Classical Solutions Outdated?

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1124.1 - 9.1124.8



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Paper Authors

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Sherif Yehia

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James Nelson

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

Session 3515

Structural Analysis Courses: Computers or Fundamentals

James K. Nelson, Jr., Ph.D., P.E. and Sherif Yehia, Ph.D., P.E. Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Introduction The computer “revolution” that occurred toward the end of the 20th century probably changed forever the background of the student entering engineering programs and the manner in which that student is best suited to learn. Further, the technology revolution has changed the manner in which engineering design is conducted and the needed skills of engineering professionals. This change is being recognized by the professional engineering organizations, which are now considering increased educational requirements for licensure. One of the major changes brought on by the computer revolution are the tools and computational available for education and professional practice. As the tools and computational resources advance, a perennial question is what should be taught in introductory structural analysis courses. Coupled with that question is what is an engineer, as opposed to an engineering technician, and what do we expect engineers to do in the future. The real question for structural engineering education is “What must a structural engineer know to be prepared for professional practice upon graduation and to successfully adapt to change that is inevitable over the 45-year span of his or her career.” The easy answer to this question is that we must teach the fundamentals of structural analysis and that the student must assimilate those fundamentals. The difficult question that naturally follows this question is “What are the fundamentals of structural analysis that an engineer should know.” In this paper, two aspects of this latter question are explored in an effort to provide an answer. First, the authors will attempt to distinguish between the skills, attitudes, and knowledge necessary for an engineer and those necessary for an engineering technician. This distinction will be based on the definitions of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, the body of knowledge for professional practice prepared by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the expectations of employers. Second, given the characteristics expected of an engineer, the authors will attempt to provide a coherent set of fundamentals for structural analysis that a graduating engineer should know. This set of fundamentals will reflect the fact that most structural analysis is conducted with the use of computers, but that the computer is only a tool in the process rather than the process itself, as some students and practitioners have come to believe. This paper states the summary opinion of the authors and serves as the opening statement of the authors in a panel discussion on this subject. It is not intended to be an all encompassing review of the content of structural analysis courses. The authors also recognize that their opinion is not the only opinion on this subject—there are almost as many opinions as there are structural engineering educators, and each opinion has a strong and loyal following.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Yehia, S., & Nelson, J. (2004, June), Structural Analysis Courses: Computers Or Fundamentals Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12813

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