Role of commercial software in teaching finite element analysis at undergraduate level: a case study
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Finite element analysis (FEA) is an advanced analysis method in structural engineering. In most universities around the world, it is still offering at postgraduate level due to vast amount of complex theoretical contents which are beyond the capacity of undergraduate students. In the past, FEA was mostly used in research and specialized jobs through the use of in-house computer program. However, with the advancement of computer technology and numerical solution techniques, specialized FEA software in structural analysis and design are now commercially available and are used widely in the industry. The FEA results provide the insight of the stress and strain distributions of a structure to the engineer/designer, which is not possible or time consuming using the conventional/classical analytical methods. The user friendly nature of new generation FEA software can stimulate the teaching and learning experience of advanced structural analysis and can provide the students with satisfaction of learning by discovery and deep understanding.This paper presents author’s observation and experience on the sue of general purpose FEA software “Strand7” in the teaching and learning of finite element analysis of structural problems in the undergraduate final year class at Curtin University. A brief description on theoretical course contents on FEA and the strategic use of Strand7 software to supplement student’s understanding of FEA theory and its use in the problem based FEA assignment is provided. It is observed that the use of Strand7 greatly helped students understanding of FEA of structures. The feedback from students show that the exposure of Strand7 in their tutorial and assignment project helped their development in the advanced analysis of structures using finite element method and increased their preparedness for engineering practice or graduate school after graduation.
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