Integration of FEA Simulation into the Undergraduate Curriculum

FEA-based simulation has become an integral part of engineering practice. Sophisticated FEA software such as ANSYS are used in industry for the design and analysis of complex engineering systems. However, the use of such software in the undergraduate mechanical engineering curriculum has been limited so that students are not prepared adequately to make appropriate use of these powerful tools. Also, the potential for these tools to enhance the learning experience is not realized. A major barrier to greater simulation use in the curriculum is that there is little time available in the classroom to teach the mechanics of using the graphical user interfaces of the packages. To overcome this barrier, we have developed web-based exercises to introduce students to ANSYS. Students learn the basics of performing simulations using ANSYS through hands-on use at there own pace outside the classroom. Important concepts and principles are clarified and reinforced through follow-on, in-class exercises in a computer classroom, thus bringing in more experiential learning into the classroom. Each simulation exercise is designed as a case study that is related to complementary material covered in lectures. This strategy gives students a strong background in the intelligent and proper use of simulation while also reinforcing their understanding of underlying theory through experiential learning.
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