Numerical simulation as in integral component of dynamics problem solving

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Proceedings (IMECE)

Publication Date



The engineering faculty at Roger Williams University are committed to training students to use modern computer-based tools when performing engineering analysis. But achieving this is a tall order, as engineering courses are already jam-packed with essential technical material and any hindrance to delivering this material is unwelcome. Likewise, we routinely pay lip service to the necessity for students to double-check their work, yet we provide students with few tools for systematically accomplishing this. This paper describes an effort by the author to integrate solid modeling into a Dynamics course by requiring numerical validation of symbolic solutions to homework problems. The students solve traditional homework problems using free-body diagrams, equations of motion, pencils and calculators; but then must demonstrate that their answers are valid through an independent check. Students construct solid models in SolidWorks© to duplicate the geometric and inertial properties of the problem, and then use the Motion Analysis, a SolidWorks Simulation add-in, to create a motion study duplicating the conditions of the problem. Students may place dynamically updating dimensions to determine distances or may generate graphs, e.g. velocity versus time, to study motion characteristics. As a direct result, students are able to independently validate their symbolic solutions with numerical simulations. This paper will provide a detailed description of the use of SolidWorks in a sophomore level Dynamics course offered spring 2012 and spring 2013. This paper will present examples of student work and assess the benefits and challenges associated with this teaching method.