Incorporating FEA in an undergraduate biomechanics course

Yi Wu, Amir Khalilollahi, Philip Martone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


A bioengineering course is offered to senior students in the Mechanical Engineering major as an elective at Penn State Behrend in the first semester of their senior year. On average around 20 students enroll in this project-based course and 72% of their grade depends on three comprehensive group projects, one of which is to design a bone plate for a fractured femur. 6% of the grade comes from an individual application presentation, discussing different circumstances in which the concepts in mechanical engineering can be applied to solve/analyze biomedical problems. Background of physiology is introduced in the class while the majority of applicable engineering knowledge was learned in prerequisite courses, such as statics, dynamics, strength of materials, system dynamics, etc. Finite Element Analysis (FEA), an elective offered in both semesters of senior year, is not a prerequisite for this bioengineering course. Most of students enrolled in our bioengineering course either do not have FEA course or are taking FEA concurrently. Therefore in spite of its popularity in the areas related to biomechanics, thus far FEA has not been incorporated in this bioengineering course. Previously, the fractured femur project utilized the applicable theoretical analyses including those from statics, strength of materials, materials, and machine design. In Fall 2015, the instructor of bioengineering course made an effort to have an FEA study on femur and ensuing presentation be completed by a willing student. This student was taking FEA simultaneously with bioengineering, and was scheduled to present during the last week of semester. The instructor of FEA wrote an introductory manual of FEA procedures to analyze a healthy femur using a CAD model of the femur. Then the student used the manual to initiate the FEA study of the fractured femur. A major challenge to the student was the complicated loading and assembly feature of the bone plus the addition of bone plate. After a several week struggle and independent learning, while guided by the faculty members of bioengineering and FEA, the student was able to accomplish the FEA analysis and presented the results to the class. The discrepancy between FEA results and theoretical analysis was shown to be less than 5% in most results. The presentation also included FEA results for a diverse realistic loading and boundary conditions. Since all students had finished the fractured femur project, they actively participated in a meaningful discussion after the presentation. The completion of this project demonstrated the feasibility and importance of incorporating FEA in our bioengineering course. In addition, the presenting student was able to complete a working manual for the FEA analysis of the fractured femur, which can be passed to the future students of this course. A plan is to include FEA in the project as a bonus activity, and regarding the formation of project teams, the instructor would appoint a member who is enrolled in the FEA course. An assignment or project, based on the present FEA study of the femur, can also be incorporated in the FEA course offered at our campus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFIE 2016 - Frontiers in Education 2016
Subtitle of host publicationThe Crossroads of Engineering and Business
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781509017904
StatePublished - Nov 28 2016
Event46th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2016 - Erie, United States
Duration: Oct 12 2016Oct 15 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Other46th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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