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Teaching And Learning Structural Engineering Analysis With Matlab

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Programming for Engineering Students II

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1125.1 - 14.1125.19



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Paper Authors

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ansgar neuenhofer California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo

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

Teaching and Learning Structural Engineering Analysis with MATLAB


The paper presents several examples of how the author uses the analysis and visualization software MATLAB in teaching analysis courses in a structural engineering university program. It also addresses how students work with the software to accelerate learning and deepen understanding.

Examples include: Animating the vibration behavior of a building frame during earthquake excitation with and without base isolation (only conference presentation, not included in paper). Assembling structural stiffness matrices in the direct stiffness and finite element methods. Visualizing stresses in a beam with holes. Behavior of a shear wall with openings under lateral loading. Illustrating the idea behind influence lines using a truss bridge.

It is shown how the many built-in matrix and graphics functions enable students to focus on the logic behind an analysis method rather than time-consuming programming and debugging. The paper includes a remarkably effortless and efficient technique in MATLAB for finite element mesh generation of areas with openings. Shape and number of openings are arbitrary provided we can describe them by mathematical functions.

1.0 Introduction

MATLAB1 is a software tool with powerful computational and graphics presentation capabilities widely used in education and research. It is valuable for teaching structural analysis, in particular modern matrix procedures like the direct stiffness and finite element methods. The popularity of MATLAB in teaching analysis in structural engineering is due to its ease of use through a variety of built-in functions well suited for structural analysis and its powerful graphic capabilities.

The author has taught structural analysis classes at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) for many years and has used MATLAB in his research and for his lecture notes. His students have worked with the software for their homework assignments and senior projects. The main objective of having the students work with MATLAB is to help them appre- ciate principles and concepts of structural analysis and the clarity of their formulation and to teach them to think logically. MATLAB is also ideal for understanding structural behavior through parametric studies. In special purpose commercial structural analysis software, changing parameters often requires cumbersome clicking through numerous levels of windows. In MAT- LAB, on the other hand, users enjoy changing input information in an "old-fashioned" text file, the MATLAB m-file.

neuenhofer, A. (2009, June), Teaching And Learning Structural Engineering Analysis With Matlab Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4584

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