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Use Of A Finite Element Stress Analysis Program To Enhance Learning In A Machine Design Course

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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

Math Software Use in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1348.1 - 9.1348.12



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Paper Authors

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Robert Ryan

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


Using a Finite Element Stress Analysis Program to Enhance Learning In a Machine Design Course Dr. Robert G. Ryan California State University, Northridge


Engineering educators generally agree that students should learn modern computational tools related to their engineering discipline. The recent trend has been to integrate the use of finite element analysis tools throughout the curriculum, instead of delaying their introduction to the senior year for use in senior design or elective courses. However, time constraints dictate that computational analysis tools must be used efficiently in engineering core courses so that teaching of fundamentals is not compromised. This paper describes a shaft design project assigned in a junior level machine design course, and compares the teaching effectiveness of a traditional analysis by “hand” versus a computational approach using COSMOS/Works. Both approaches are found to be beneficial for student learning, and the experience suggests that a finite element analysis tool complements, but does not replace, traditional analysis techniques in the classroom.


The use of modern computational tools in an undergraduate curriculum is a necessary component of today’s engineering education. Introduction of new topics or techniques inevitably creates a tension between an engineering program’s need to stay current versus the traditional coverage of the fundamentals of engineering science and design. The use of solid modeling (CAD) and finite element analysis (FEA) tools can require the introduction of new courses and/or a significant allotment of time within existing courses. Integration of the use of FEA software in core mechanical engineering courses can potentially absorb valuable time to accommodate the “learning curve” associated with CAD/FEA tools.

In 2001, concerns about this learning curve led the Mechanical Engineering department at California State University, Northridge to adopt the SolidWorks family of design and analysis tools as the standard for our curriculum. The most important reasons for this choice was the relative ease of use of the solid modeling CAD package (SolidWorks), and the close integration among the analysis tools (COSMOSWorks, FloWorks, etc.) and the SolidWorks interface. Recent changes to our lower division curriculum have been designed to introduce this family of tools in freshman and sophomore classes, in order to support the ultimate goal of integrating CAD and FEA tools throughout the curriculum. This is a significant change from our past practice which tended to delay the application of CAD and FEA tools until the senior design capstone course.

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

Ryan, R. (2004, June), Use Of A Finite Element Stress Analysis Program To Enhance Learning In A Machine Design Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13042

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