One of the most fundamental concepts engineering students learn about in their undergraduate careers is the mechanics of materials. In this field, engineers study how structures or other deformable bodies are affected by stresses and strains. For example, they learn about how much weight a beam can bear before it starts to deform, and how that deformation will look. Or they’ll examine how altering the material, size or shape of a structure changes the way it is affected by stress. This forms an important base of knowledge for fields ranging from aircraft design to building construction to marine engineering.
Computer models and Mohr’s circle diagrams are used to depict conceptually how a surface is affected by stress. But these methods for teaching students, and even doing research, have their limitations.