June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
11.1225.1 - 11.1225.10
Teaching Students How to Evaluate the Reasonableness of Structural Analysis Results
Abstract Structural engineers, and engineers in general, depend heavily on software to assist in complex analyses of large problems. As the size and complexity of a problem increases, however, the potential for errors and the devastating impacts of those errors increase. Unfortunately, few faculty teach undergraduate students how to evaluate the reasonableness of their structural analysis results. Therefore, the National Science Foundation has funded a project to develop a version of undergraduate structural analysis course that teaches students to not only generate structural analysis results, but also to evaluate those results for reasonableness.
The author has interviewed practicing structural engineers to determine the methods they use to evaluate structural analysis results. The data from the interviews have been blended into a new version of the undergraduate structural analysis course. A comparison of syllabi from the old and new versions of the course shows that teaching evaluation of results can have minimal impact on the time spent on each topic on the syllabus.
The methods being incorporated into the new version of the course focus on simplifying situations into problems that can be easily solved and on anticipating features of complex solutions. This paper summarizes the methods incorporated in this course and provides several examples.
In exit interviews, students in both the old and new versions of the course expressed similar attitudes when asked about the existence of reasonable answers and the importance of evaluating results. Therefore, students already believed that reasonable answers can be obtained, and that it is important to evaluate their answers. However, when students taking both the old and new versions of the course were tested at the end of the course to measure their ability to evaluate the reasonableness of structural analysis results, the students in the new version of the course showed a measurable increase in ability to identify the most reasonable answer and to explain why it was the most reasonable answer.
Introduction Categories of Errors To help students learn methods for evaluation, the course begins with a description of four categories of errors in structural analysis and design: idealization of the real structure, assumptions inherent to the analysis method or design equations, roundoff error, and human error.
1. Idealization of the real structure. This category includes all of the assumptions we intentionally make in order to model a structure. Some examples include assuming unrestrained rotation at every joint of a truss, exactly straight members, or perfectly rigid diaphragms. Fortunately, many of the errors induced by the idealization of the structure have a relatively small impact. The load and strength reduction factors used in design standards
Hanson, J. (2006, June), Teaching Students How To Evaluate The Reasonableness Of Structural Analysis Results Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/546
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