A pretty picture. For more pretty pictures, see here.

Need for a new approach to FEM education?

(first published in the LinkedIn group "Finite Element Analysis Training", September 26, 2017)

At http://www.simxon.com you will see that I have started a new company with the purpose of bridging between the simulation world known to long-time professionals and the upcoming world of high-quality, free offerings (http://www.simscale.com).

You may frown at "high-quality". I mean high quality the way that Ford model T possessed high quality: It did what it promised to do with a disruptive cost-benefit ratio.

Four decades ago, I was introduced to simulation by competent teachers who showed me classical, important formulas. When I was able to understand those formulas, I was rewarded by being introduced to computers doing the same stuff automatically by running something they called "algorithms".

I clearly remember that I insisted that my teachers told me about "the big picture". They were not unwilling, but they stated (and they were right) that I should just work with the formulas using pen and paper, then I would get up to speed on the subjects at hand.

Today is different. Everyone in the entire world can open a browser and do simulations for free which nobody in the entire world could do a few decades ago.

This, I believe, calls for a new approach to teaching. Why work with formulas using pen and paper if you can produce valuable results without investing in neither teaching nor tools?

I think that FEM teaching of the future must:

  1. Tell the poor young devils about possible traps if they think they can do everything with today's entry-level tools. The teacher/storyteller must realize that the audience is right that they can do miracles without your teaching. The only option for the teacher is to convey the message that the students may get stuck in disasters, too, if they are unaware of the traps.
  2. Emphasize "the big picture". Each classic formula contains a transcendental message unrelated to its visible appearance. And all physical laws have a limited application range. Formula-based teaching will become a no-go.

Or what do you think?

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