Finite element analysis learning modules for an undergraduate heat transfer course: Implementation and assessment

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Conference Title

Annual Meeting of the American Society of Engineering Education


American Society of Engineering Education


San Antonio, TX

Date of Presentation



Commercial finite element packages are widely used in industry thereby making exposure to thisanalysis and optimization tool an important component of undergraduate engineering education.Finite element theory and application has often been the focus of a graduate-level course inengineering programs, however industry demands are requiring B.S. engineering graduates tohave skill in applying this essential analysis and design technique. To meet this need, finiteelement analysis (FEA) learning modules have been developed for implementation into variousundergraduate engineering courses, including mechanics of materials, vibrations, heat transfer,fluid mechanics, and machine design and analysis; these learning modules have been designed toserve as an effective teaching and learning resource that reinforces fundamental concepts andapplications of each course without requiring a knowledge of the rigorous mathematical theoryunderlying the finite element method nor the removal of course content in order to make roomfor this new material.This paper discusses the implementation, results, impact, and assessment of incorporating theselearning modules into an undergraduate heat transfer course using SolidWorks Simulationcommercial software. The primary goals of the learning modules are to provide the studentswith (a) an alternate insight into heat transfer concepts that are covered in a traditionalundergraduate course, including steady-state heat conduction, transient heat conduction, and heatconduction through a semi-infinite medium, (b) a basic knowledge of finite element theory, and(c) the ability to apply commercial finite element software to engineering problems involvingthermal systems. Assessment has been done through the use of pre- and post-learning modulequizzes and student opinion surveys and the results indicate that there is an increase in studentperformance after having completed the learning modules.


© 2012 American Society for Engineering Education

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