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An environment for modeling structural analysis problem-solving strategies

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2 Author(s)
Blackmon, W.H. ; Dept. of Civil & Environ. Eng., Carnegie Mellon Univ., Pittsburgh, PA, USA ; Fenves, S.J.

Students in structural analysis courses can take advantage of common tools such as Excel or Maple to perform calculations that implement the concepts taught. The advantages of using these tools over hand calculations include reduction in mathematical errors, faster execution of repetitive calculations, and exploration of alternative configurations. However, having students create these worksheets by hand increases the chance for errors in setting up the calculations and can increase the difficulty in understanding the concepts themselves. STructural Analysis Resource (STAR) is intended to allow students to concentrate on the concepts of structural analysis rather than the calculations, and to simplify the process of creating worksheets for solving problems. The key element of STAR is a graph representation of high-level abstractions of structural analysis methods and data. A student creates a problem-solving strategy by interactively building up a graph. The graph representation facilitates understanding of the relationship between concepts and the flow of data through a problem. The method nodes are hierarchically constructed by the instructor or student from system-supplied commands and/or other methods. Conversely, the method nodes are modeled as hierarchical “glass boxes”, which allow the student to expand a node and see the underlying intermediate steps; these steps are not and cannot be hidden from the student. After the student has created a graph representing the problem-solving strategy, STAR translates the graph to a worksheet for selected target execution environments, such as Excel or Maple

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference, 1997. 27th Annual Conference. Teaching and Learning in an Era of Change. Proceedings.  (Volume:3 )

Date of Conference:

5-8 Nov 1997