Teaching engineering is hard. It’s one thing to explain concepts, but most students require concrete, practical examples in order to fully understand those concepts. Practical examples cost money, and they also require time and effort to develop. That’s why we’ve started creating free educational content for Mechanical Engineering courses!
Our first offering is the Truss Experiment, a two-hour lab for statics courses. In this lab, students start by analyzing a sample truss using the familiar concepts of tension, compression, and two-force members. Next, they design a truss member to withstand a specific load at a given safety factor, and then fabricate all the members from thin, inexpensive sheets of aluminum using a CNC mill. Our truss designs are made in Autodesk Fusion 360, a powerful CAD/CAM software package that is free for students and compatible with a large number of CNC mills.
Once the truss parts are fabricated, students assemble them using off-the-shelf nuts and bolts.
Then comes the exciting part: after assembling the trusses, students test them to failure using weights. They record the maximum weight at failure, calculate the actual safety factor, and compare it to the safety factor they designed for. Were their calculations correct? The answer is clear and easy to understand.