Over the last 50 years, Machine Design textbooks have been continually updated to include instruction on current technology and to include the latest standards. However, current technology has not been incorporated in the teaching of the material. Specifically, there is a chapter in most texts that addresses basic FEA theory. However, FEA is not used to teach the concepts of machine design. Conversely, the content of machine design is not used to enhance students’ FEA skills. These two topics are natural partners and can be used to enhance the learning of both topics. The pedagogy presented in this paper seeks to bridge these gaps.
FEA has been applied to many aspects of machine design to better understand the interplay between machine elements. Very little of this research is currently incorporated in the teaching of machine design, even though FEA is commonly used in industry for machine element selection and design. Additionally, the tool itself is not used to explore complex interactions between machine elements in the classroom to allow students to better understand the interactions and have a better feel for implementing these elements in complex systems.
Although in many schools, students learn the theory behind FEA and how to use it, they get little opportunity to apply the knowledge gained to “real life” scenarios. Using FEA to teach machine design provides an ideal opportunity to expose students to interpretation of FEA results.
Five modules were developed to encourage exploration of machine elements using FEA: Modal Analysis of a Shaft, Stress and Deflection Analysis of a Shaft, Press Fit of a Component on a Shaft, Effect of Changing Pitch and Pressure Angle on Contact and Bending Stresses in a Spur Gear, and Gasketed vs. Non-gasketed Bolted Joints. Each module includes a theoretical background section, a model set-up section and a list of questions for the student to answer by exploring the results of their simulations. Additionally, the modules developed through this research are interactive and require student exploration. They, along with other learning activities could easily be used to encourage a more active classroom.
As Finite Element Analysis is taught concurrently with Machine Design II at University, students were learning to use ANSYS software and the FEA theory simultaneously with machine design content. Students stated that the FEA activities helped them understand the machine design content much better than just performing book problems. However, due to sequencing in the two courses, many students also found performing the FEA analyses to be beyond their abilities. Future plans for this research include sequencing the FEA and Machine Design courses to allow better synergy and reducing the amount of model generation required of the students to focus more on interpretation of the results and reinforcement of the Machine Design content.
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