Structural Analysis is the main theoretical and mathematically based topic studied within the subject area of Structural Engineering and often represents something of a hurdle to the student. The lecturer must ensure not only that the students are numerically competent and able to solve problems, but also that they understand the basic behaviour of the structures they analyse. There is evidence, from tests carried out on Civil Engineering graduates, that an overemphasis on numerically based worked examples does not necessarily lead to a qualitative understanding of structural behaviour. Nevertheless, the student must be competent to analyse a structure and obtain a correct solution. The paper describes the use of the standard ICL 'Plane Frames' program to accomplish both the qualitative and quantitative understanding of structures. In what appears at first to be a deceptively simple application, the student uses the computer program to generate the solution to a type of problem for which he chooses the structural dimensions and loads. This provides the solution which he must match with his hand calculation. Because each problem is unique to the student he is encouraged to gain assistance from his peers and this debate and the reworking of the problem to obtain the correct solution appears to contribute to the general understanding of the structural principles involved. In addition, the computer is used to generate data upon which the numerical solution is based. In this way, the particular method is emphasised. © 1981.
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