Using Matlab to Evaluate a Bracket in Equilibrium

Rebecca Paulsen Edwards
Southwestern University
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Initial Publication Date: October 3, 2017 | Reviewed: November 19, 2018


Students will evaluate a t-shaped bracket with both supports and applied forces. Both hand calculations and a Matlab script will be used to evaluate the forces. Then, the student will experiment with changing the forces or geometry of the bracket and will use Matlab to help them find new reactions at the support to accommodate the new configuration.

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Learning Goals

This activity requires students to write a simple program to model a physical system. They then alter one or more of the properties of the model and evaluate the response of the system to those changes. This activity lays the groundwork for performing more complex analysis tasks using Matlab later in the semester (for example: adding stress/strain calculations, evaluating bending moments, etc.)

Context for Use

This activity would be best at midsemester in an engineering statics course, after the students have learned about two-dimensional equilibrium. Required Matlab knowledge includes using the command window and scripting features, assigning variables, and performing basic arithmetic operations.

Description and Teaching Materials

"Matlab Bracket Exercise Student Handout" -- step-by-step instructions, including questions, for students to follow.
"Sample Matlab Script" -- one possible Matlab script that could be used to evaluate the bracket.
"Bracket Problem Hand Calculations" -- Solutions to the original bracket equilibrium problem
Student Instructions (Acrobat (PDF) 192kB Oct3 17)
Hand Calculations (Acrobat (PDF) 337kB Oct3 17)
Sample Matlab Script (Acrobat (PDF) 57kB Oct3 17)

Teaching Notes and Tips


The student should be able to find the reactions at the supports in the original configuration of the bracket. He/she should be able to develop a Matlab script that will demonstrate equilibrium or not equilibrium depending on the forces entered for the reactions. He/she should be able to describe the benefits of using Matlab to quickly iterate through possible design changes to evaluate the equilibrium of a physical system.

References and Resources