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Beyond 2 Dimensions - Engineering Lecturer Opens up the Third Dimension to Her Students

Dr Lewis with some of her students' models
Dr Lewis with some of her
students' models

Originally published 9 July 1996

University of Warwick Engineering lecturer Dr Wanda Lewis has opened up the third dimension to her engineering students. She has started a new course in Advanced Structural Forms which marks a significant departure from conventional engineering teaching methods. Dr Lewis set up the course because she felt that conventional engineering teaching methods alone do not allow students to develop a good physical understanding of structural behaviour.

The new course has been set up to address this issue and to emphasise the advantages that the three-dimensional behaviour of such structures produces. The course is intended to challenge students' creative skills in design and complement their existing analytical skills.

Up till now engineering students have relied on two- dimensional visualisations on paper or computer screen of three- dimensional forms. This lack of understanding of the three dimensional nature of forces acting on a structure produces safe, but conservative predictions of the actual behaviour of a structure.

The motto of the course: "Force follows form" - encourages students to think about the flow of forces in the structure, depending on structure's initial shape. This motto derives from the work of the innovative structural engineer Heinz Isler's work who visited the University of Warwick in October. Isler's much publicised lectures inspired Dr Lewis and her students to follow his work.

For part of the new course students were encouraged to produce an exciting variety of three dimensional structural models, (see photo enclosed) ranging from foldable roofs, geodesic domes to cable truss and tension membranes.

Dr Lewis has now been awarded a Phase I Craft award (under the Bright Euram Scheme) for a feasibility study of optimum computational methods of design of "tension" structures she and her students will examine in the new course. The award is to be held jointly with two European firms who are world leaders in tension structures design. (The value of the award is 45,000 ECU in the first instance).

For further information please contact:-

Dr Wanda Lewis,
Department of Engineering University of Warwick
Tel: 024 76 523138