Applications of finite element analysis for undergraduates

C. J. Lissenden, G. S. Wagle, N. J. Salamon

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The Engineering Science and Mechanics department and the Mechanical Engineering department at Penn State share responsibility for teaching an undergraduate course on finite element analysis applications. We present one approach for teaching this course. Instructors can approach a course like this in a variety of ways. Faculty, students, and industry generally disagree as to what the learning objectives of this course should be. Furthermore, it is very difficult to get consensus from any one of these three groups. Should the focus be on using commercial software? On writing software? On the finite element method itself? On understanding finite element results? Our course objectives are to produce students capable of undertaking linear finite element modeling, who understand the basics of how commercial software packages work and the results they give, and what errors could be present. We describe the course content, which includes a mix between the finite element method and applications using a commercial software package. Special attention is given to each of the four projects that are assigned during a semester, with emphasis on learning objectives, project specifics, and student results. The students use the PRO/MECHANICA software package for these projects. While these projects change somewhat from semester to semester they generally cover: (1) plane stress elements, (2) axisymmetric elements, (3) frame elements, and (4) solid elements. In the most recent semester, students were provided a solid model of a bicycle crank arm for one project and were asked to perform a stress analysis of the crank arm. Students presented their results to students in an advanced mechanics of materials course who were designing a crank arm for their class project. In this way students were introduced to how finite element modeling fits into the design process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7701-7707
Number of pages7
JournalASEE Annual Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2002
Event2002 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Vive L'ingenieur - Montreal, Que., Canada
Duration: Jun 16 2002Jun 19 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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