Course Title: The Finite Element Method

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: The Finite Element Method

Credit Points: 12.00

Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


145H Mathematical & Geospatial Sciences



Course Coordinator: Dr Yan Ding

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 3217

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: Office 19, Level 9, Building 8, City Campus

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

The prerequisites are MATH1141 and MATH1143 or their equivalents - the mathematics courses undertaken by first year science and engineering students at RMIT. A second year mathematics course in Numerical Methods would be an advantage but is not essential.

Course Description

The Finite Element Method (FEM) is widely used in industry for analysing and modelling structures and continua, whose physical behaviour is described by ordinary and partial differential equations. The FEM is particularly useful for engineering problems that are too complicated to be solved by classical analytical methods. The main objective of this course is to introduce the mathematical concepts of the Finite Element Method for obtaining an approximate solution of ordinary and partial differential equations. In this course you will attend lectures on the fundamentals of the Finite Element Method. Your learning process will be enhanced by completing assignments using mathematical software such as Maple. You will also be introduced to a commercial Finite Element software package – ANSYS – during lectures with computer laboratories providing opportunities to practice on, and to complete practical assignments, using ANSYS.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

This course will develop your Technical Competence capability. Upon successful completion of this course, you should:

  • Possess a good understanding of the theoretical basis of the weighted residual Finite Element Method.
  • Be able to implement the Galerkin residual weak formulation into the Finite Element Method for the solution of Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations, using mathematical software such as Maple.
  • Be able to use the commercial Finite Element package ANSYS to build Finite Element models and solve a selected range of engineering problems.
  • Be able to validate a Finite Element model using a range of techniques.
  • Be able to communicate effectively in writing to report (both textually and graphically) the method used, the implementation and the numerical results obtained.
  • Be able to discuss the accuracy of the Finite Element solutions.

Capabilities that you will learn, develop and exercise in this course are:

Problem-solving and decision-making capacity such as:

  • Ability to solve practical problems using mathematical software such as Maple;
  • Ability to solve engineering problems using the commercial software ANSYS. 

Profession skills capacity such as:

  • Ability to apply the course work effectively, as an individual, and in multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural teams;
  • Ability to complete course work on time, and to meet set deadlines

Communication capacity such as:

  • Ability to communicate effectively in writing (both textually and graphically).

Lifelong learning capacity such as:

  • Ability to undertake self-directed study.

Overview of Learning Activities

The underlying theory of the Finite Element Method and its applications will be explained and illustrated in lectures. Computational laboratory sessions will reinforce the content covered in lectures and in your personal study, and to assist you in completing the assignments, using a mathematical software package such as Maple and the commercial Finite Element Method package ANSYS.

Overview of Learning Resources

Learning is undertaken with weekly lectures, computer laboratory work, web access and consultation with selected engineering journals.

Past and sample test questions, worksheets and assignment papers will be posted on the Distributed Learning System (DLS). On-line course notes, on the Finite Element Method, will also be available on the DLS.

RMIT University Library has many suitable reference books covering the Finite Element Method. No specific textbook is set.

Overview of Assessment

Assessment consists of the following components:

  • Two assignments using mathematical software such as Maple;
  • One WebLearn test or a paper-based Class test ;
  • Two assignments using the commercial FEM package, ANSYS .

Your performance in the assignments and tests will be based on the accuracy of your technical computations, and clarity and thoroughness of your presentation.

Part B of the course guide provides specific details on the assessment criteria and the weight attached to the test and each assignment.