American Society of Civil Engineers

E-Teaching and E-Learning Structural Design

by Edoardo Anderheggen, (Professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, ETH Hönggerberg, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland E-mail: and Claudia Pedron, (Research Associate, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, ETH Hönggerberg, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland E-mail:
Section: Computer Aided Education II, pp. 1-9, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Computing in Civil Engineering
Abstract: The Computer Revolution has completely revolutionized structural mechanics both in its theoretical basis ("Computer Shapes Theory") and in its practical applications. This must be considered when teaching this centuries-old discipline to architecture and civil engineering students. As before, these need to understand how the structures they design are expected to carry loads, but now they also have to know how to properly use the software tools they will encounter in practice. In fact, undergraduate students should first learn how to properly model real life structures so that the computer will provide meaningful results. They then have to learn how to extract from computer results the information which is relevant for structural design. The theoretical intricacies of structural analysis, i.e. today mainly of the finite element method, can be addressed later or, at least for architects, not at all. The ability to manually perform structural analysis computations is never needed. Computer programs, if specifically and properly designed tor this purpose, can become a useful tool for developing the feeling needed for structural design. We address here two questions: What should students learn when first confronted with structural design? How can they be helped by specially-tailored software? The computer program EasyStatics has been developed with these questions in mind.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Structural design
Finite element method
Structural analysis