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Integrating Finite Element Analysis and Computer Aided Design Into Materials Engineering and Undergraduate Research Projects: Active and Engaged Students

[+] Author Affiliations
Kathleen L. Kitto

Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA

Paper No. DETC2007-34901, pp. 395-402; 8 pages
  • ASME 2007 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 2: 27th Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Parts A and B
  • Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, September 4–7, 2007
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division and Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4803-5 | eISBN: 0-7918-3806-4
  • Copyright © 2007 by ASME


Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Computer Aided Design (CAD) have been integrated into our Introductory Materials Engineering course and certain undergraduate independent research experiences at Western Washington University. The key idea underlying these modifications to the curriculum is to increase active student interest and involvement in their own learning. Active learning does indeed promote the way students construct their own understanding of materials engineering design solutions. Since a diverse group of students learn in many different ways, delivering curriculum in multiple ways increases the probability of improving student learning. During the past four years, several strategies have been implemented in our Introduction to Materials Engineering course to transform it from a traditional lecture-centric class to an active, “learner-centered” environment. Case studies, problem based learning (PBL), concept questions, stringed musical instrument design, and active, in-class demonstrations have all been integrated into the course during this transformation. Recent additions to this new course strategy have been the integration of Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) illustrations and animations as in-class dynamic demonstrations and applications. In this course, the students must master the ability to use fundamental materials properties such as: tensile strength, yield strength, modulus of elasticity, Poisson’s ratio, flexural strength, hardness, fatigue limit/life, and creep life, so they can correctly select a material for a simple design case given multiple engineering constraints. Since so much of this course is design and applications based, FEA makes an ideal compliment to the other active and conceptual strategies. This paper, then, describes the new FEA and CAD additions and strategies to the course. In addition, the changes in the Introduction to Materials Engineering course have generated a great deal of student interest in completing independent research projects investigating materials for stringed musical instruments and numerous research projects have been completed. The most impressive of these, the design and production of a carbon fiber composite violin using all computer-based tools and an independent research project on guitar design are described. Finally, the paper provides an initial assessment analysis that shows students improving on classical test problem scores, having an enhanced ability to complete a more complex final design problem, and demonstrating increased interest in engineering design.

Copyright © 2007 by ASME



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