Failure - Prediction Competitions to Develop Structural Design Skills
Editor: Norell Bergendahl, M.; Grimheden, M.; Leifer, L.; Skogstad, P.; Lindemann, U.
Author: Field, Bruce William
Section: Design Education and Lifelong Learning
At some stage in their education, a mechanical engineer learns how to analyze a range of structural elements, such as beams, columns, shafts, welded and pinned joints. Separately, they learn how to conduct a static load analysis. A deeper understanding of these concepts can be gained in a single project during which an artifact is loaded to destruction. Students are supplied with incomplete information about the artifact, and may have access to the actual device. They conduct a load analysis, identify suitable modeling equations for the different parts of the artifact, then investigate the plausible failure modes, systematically eliminating modes and locations of high strength so they can identify the location and load that constitutes "failure". The author has been setting this type of project for a design course in the BE program at Monash University since 1992, and has identified several simple rules that can be applied when such projects are set, helping to ensure that the outcomes are satisfying and educational. By presenting this project as a competition, students become motivated and curious to find out how their otherwise theoretical studies actually apply to real artifacts.