3D visualization of structures using finite-element analysis in teaching

Ben Young, E. Ellobody, T.W.C. Hu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents the results of a 4-year study (from 2006-2009) using three-dimensional (3D) visualization of structures for teaching in civil engineering. 3D finite-element models have been developed to simulate the behavior of various structural members, such as beams, columns, and plates, taught to civil engineering students in classroom lectures or tested in laboratories. The finite-element simulation approach allows students to see the behavior of structures that is not detectable by human eye, such as the stresses in structures. 3D video clips and animations showing the propagation of stresses and strains in the structural members and deformations from different angles up to failure were developed using finite-element models. The 3D visualizations were presented to students as illustrative examples to enhance their understanding in structural analysis courses. Student feedback regarding the teaching innovations were collected and analyzed. The statistics derived show that students reacted positively and benefited considerably from the use of 3D visualization in civil engineering education, particularly in grasping the behavior of structures. The findings strongly suggest that 3D visualization of structures using finite-element analysis can be used as an effective teaching tool for civil engineering students in structural analysis courses. © 2012 American Society of Civil Engineers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-138
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D visualization
  • Civil
  • Engineering
  • Finite element
  • Modeling
  • Structures
  • Teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


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