The common approach to engineering software development involves the identification of relevant concepts, relations between concepts, and strategies for manipulating concepts and relations in an informal manner. We believe that although the informal approach to the identification and utilization of engineering knowledge may be sufficient for a certain class of problems, it fails to systematically support the development and study of complex automated (intelligent) engineering systems. Therefore, a formal approach is needed for such developments and studies.
In this paper a formal theory that captures the knowledge associated with the physical behavior of structural systems is formulated. The physical behavior of structural systems is defined as the response (member displacements and member forces) of the structure to its environment (applied loads and boundary conditions). Predicate logic is used as the underlying formal language of the theory and the resolution theorem proving strategy is used for reasoning about the theory. The use of the formal theory for the analysis and synthesis of structural systems is illustrated and several research areas where the formal approach shows promise are discussed.