An interactive steel connection teaching tool - A virtual structure

Saeed Moaveni, Karen C. Chou

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Steel connections play important roles in the integrity of a structure, and many structural failures are attributed to connection failures. Connections are the glue that holds a structure together. The failures of the Hartford Civic Center in 1977, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City in 1980, and the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis in 2007 are all attributed to connection failures. A good connection design requires engineer to have a good understanding of the mechanics and steel behavior. The engineer also should know the fabricator's limitations and experience. In the past 20 years, in order to help students better understand various connection types; many schools have acquired steel sculptures. A steel sculpture is a physical system that shows forty-eight types of connections found in standard construction practices. Unfortunately, because of its size and location (eight feet tall, weighs nearly 2500 pounds and usually erected outdoor), students do not always have easy access to it. Moreover, today's students who belong to the Google generation are more comfortable with web-based learning tools. Through a NSF grant we have created an interactive version of the steel sculpture to provide not only an effective learning opportunity but also a 24-7 access to students and educators in the United States and abroad. This work is the result of a collaborative effort among universities and students from different engineering programs. The virtual sculpture gives the user the freedom to rotate or pan the sculpture to view it from any direction. The user may also isolate any one of the 48 connections for a closer view and learn more about that given connection including: description of the connection, potential failure modes (limit states), sample calculations of each limit state to determine the load carrying capacity of the connection, field examples, and a 3-D finite element model of that connection. The 3-D model provides a visual display of stress distribution in the connection area. The solid model of the steel sculpture was developed using Creo and converted to a 3-D interactive PDF file. This was done to avoid the need for purchasing the Creo software. A web page was also developed where users can download the virtual sculpture and the linked documents. Three survey forms were also developed with a slightly different focus to seek feedback from students, educators, and recent engineering graduates. The user may complete the online survey form after s/he has had an opportunity to explore the virtual sculpture. The capabilities of the virtual steel sculpture will be demonstrated during the presentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Event121st ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: 360 Degrees of Engineering Education - Indianapolis, IN, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2014Jun 18 2014


Other121st ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: 360 Degrees of Engineering Education
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityIndianapolis, IN

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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