High Fidelity Structural Analysis for Undergrad Structural Engineering Students

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As computational power perpetually increases, high-fidelity structural analysis is increasingly used by structural engineering professionals. Just as an undergraduate course on strength of materials complements a course on matrix structural analysis, a typical graduate-level course on continuum mechanics complements a graduate course on high-fidelity finite element analysis (FEA). While high-fidelity FEA is a sophisticated method of structural analysis with a steep learning curve, the underlying continuum mechanics theory is elegant and conceptually simpler than many of the concepts that are already included in the typical undergraduate structural engineering curriculum. Carefully selected continuum mechanics topics, namely, three-dimensional strain, stress, and linear elasticity, have been recently included in undergraduate courses on "Structural Mechanics" and "Advanced Structural Analysis." It is demonstrated that some subtle simplifications are necessary to tailor the pedagogy for an undergraduate audience, and significant "hands-on" time should be devoted to the post-processing of high-fidelity FEA simulations that are relevant to structural engineers. However, with some careful lesson-planning, the key principles of continuum mechanics and high-fidelity FEA can certainly be taught to an undergraduate level, and will provide the undergraduate student with a broader perspective of structural engineering.
Finite element analysis (FEA)
Freidenberg et al., “High Fidelity Structural Analysis for Undergrad Structural Engineering Students.” 2018.