An Elementary Finite Element Exercise to Stimulate Computational Thinking in Engineering Education

Majid Aleyaasin* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, an elementary exercise that can strengthen computational thinking in engineering analysis and design is outlined and discussed. The exercise is a simple finite element assignment designed for the M.Sc. students in Mechanical and Civil Engineering. It comprises a two-member frame with a variety of loading that can be solved manually without using any computer programming. Individual data is allocated to each student, and they have been asked to report their results like reaction forces, reaction moments and stresses. Thereafter they have modelled the same frame structure in commercially available finite element method (FEM) software ABAQUS, from which a substantial output file is created for such a simple problem. In the final stage, each student highlights the ABAQUS results that can be compared and commented upon with the results obtained from their manual calculations. Since the assignment is individual, it provides a justifiable connection between computational thinking of an individual mind, with printed outputs of a complicated FEM software. Implementing this assignment in M.Sc. finite element course at Aberdeen University has been very successful. This enabled individual students to relate their computational thinking, with the results of complicated FEM software in engineering. It is concluded that such exercises can stimulate computational thinking in engineering education. Moreover, they can be used in other engineering fields where FEM is applicable, either at the university level or Professional and Career Development courses in engineering.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalComputer Applications in Engineering Education
Early online date11 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jun 2021


  • computational thinking
  • engineering education
  • finite elemental
  • STEM

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