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Teaching And Learning Structural Analysis Using Mathcad

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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

CAD Applications in MET Courses

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1061.1 - 7.1061.10



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Paper Authors

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Nirmal Das

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Session 3649

Teaching and Learning Structural Analysis Using Mathcad

Nirmal K. Das Georgia Southern University


The students taking Structural Analysis (required) in the ABET-accredited 4-year Civil Engineering Technology program at Georgia Southern University learn two classical methods for analysis of statically indeterminate continuous beams and frames - the moment distribution method and the slope-deflection method. The moment distribution method operates by successive approximations approaching the exact solution. Learning this method provides an unique perspective of how the internal reactions (moments) and the associated structural deformations are interrelated, an understanding of which is essential in structural analysis. However, the traditional teaching method (lecturing and having the students work on related assignments) does not always prove to be effective.

An approach to teaching this important classical method of structural analysis that complements the traditional lecturing through inclusion of a powerful, versatile and user-friendly computational tool, is discussed in this paper. Students will learn how to utilize Mathcad to perform a variety of calculations in a sequence and to verify the accuracy of their manual solutions. A Mathcad program is developed for this purpose and examples to illustrate the computer program are also included in this paper. The integration of Mathcad will enhance students’ problem-solving skills, as it will allow them to focus on analysis while the software performs routine calculations. Thus it will promote learning by discovery, instead of leaving the student in the role of passive observer.

I. Introduction

The moment distribution method was published by late professor Hardy Cross in 1930, and was the most widely used method for analysis of statically indeterminate continuous beams and frames for the next 40 years. The primary reason for the popularity of this classical method was the fact that unlike other classical methods such as the slope-deflection method, it does not require solution of simultaneous equations. Even though the use of the moment distribution method has declined as computers have become increasingly available, the method is still preferred by some engineers, especially for analysis of smaller structures, as it provides a better insight into the load-deformation relationship. The elegance of the method lies in its simplicity in theory and application.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Das, N. (2002, June), Teaching And Learning Structural Analysis Using Mathcad Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11262

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