Think Up Case Study: Structural Games and Simulators

A screenshot of one of Think Up's latest structural games

Employers often complain that graduating structural engineers don’t understand how simple structures behave, despite having spent years studying the formulae that govern structural behaviour. To address this problem Think Up has been developing a range of structural games and simulators that take the maths out of structural engineering and instead help students develop a more intuitive understanding.

The development of these tools has been led by Gennaro Sennatore or Head of Computational Design and Research and a team of international collaborators from industry and academia. The development process has been iterative, at each stage testing what the available technology allows and what benefit learners can derive from it.

The journey began with the creation of Push Me Pull Me, a suite online apps that allows students to push and pull pre-drawn structures using their mouse pointer. These Push Me Pull Me models were based on parametric models, which were pre-calculated.

Following the… success of Push Me Pull Me, Gennaro and his team set about building a real-time physics engine that would allow users to build and manipulate simple pinned truss-based structures. The outcome of this work was the game Catastrophe, in which players can push, pull and remove elements from famous structures until they collapse. Catastrophe featured a ‘sandbox’ mode in which users build and test their own structures, a very popular with students and lecturers.

With Push Me Pull Me 3D Gennaro et al developed a fully 3D real-time physics engine that allowed the construction of structures with flexural elements and fixed connections. Users were also able to import geometries for structures from other CAD software, and to export their creations.