Course Syllabus

MECH 417/517 Finite Element Analysis

Spring of 2021 moving to Canvas


General Information

Class hours: Tuesday & Thursday, 1:00 - 2:15 PM, via Zoom

Office hours: pending on Zoom

web-site: moving to Canvas



Prof. Ed Akin

Office: Mechanical Engineering Building, Room 221

Phone:  (713) 348-4879



Course Description

This is an elective course. The course provides a general introduction to the theory behind the classic parametric finite element (FE) analysis as a common numerical analysis tool. It covers the fundamental theoretical approach beginning with a review of differential equations, boundary conditions, integral forms, interpolation, parametric geometry, numerical integration, and matrix algebra. Next, engineering applications to field analysis, stress analysis and vibrations are introduced. Time dependent problems are also treated. The implementation of FE analysis is taught through the modification of a library of example Matlab scripts. Students are also introduced, by means of selected tutorials, to the commercial finite element system SolidWorks which is similar to one they could be expected to use upon graduation.


Course Goals

Upon completion of the course students should be able to: 1. To correlate a differential equation and its equivalent integral form 2. Understand parametric interpolation and parametric geometry 3. Utilize numerical integration in 1-, 2-, and 3-dimensions 4. Assemble (scatter) finite element matrices to the system matrices 5. Enforce essential boundary conditions to a matrix system 6. Recover system reactions 7. Post process a solution to find its gradient and its integral 8. Apply commercial software to stress analysis, thermal analysis, and vibrations



Basic physics (PHYS 101), basic calculus MATH 101.


Reference Books

T.J.R. Hughes, The Finite Element Method, Dover, 2000, McGraw-Hill, 1995.

J.E. Akin, Finite Element Analysis Concepts via SolidWorks,World Scientific, 2010, Draft copy on Canvas

Grading (Graduate students will be assigned extra homework and tutorials.)

Homework       60%

Training         20%

Test #1 10%     (take-home)

Test #2 10%     (take-home)


Homework Policy

Homework will be assigned on the last class of the week (usually Thursday).  It will be due at midnight Friday of the following week .    Homework is meant as an exercise and you are encouraged to consult anyone (students, teaching assistants, me) and anything (notes, books, your own experiments) if it helps you to understand the material.  However, you may not consult another person's solution to any given problem or solutions from past years. 


Exam Policy

The midterm exam will be assigned on a Thursday and will be due at the beginning of the next Thursday class.  The final exam will be distributed (with a cover sheet) on the last day of classes and is due at the end of the finals period.  Tests are taken under the Rice Honor Code system. 


Students with disabilities

Any student with a disability requiring accommodations in this course is encouraged to contact me after class or during office hours.  Additionally, students should contact Disabled Student Services at the Ley Student Center.