I am an electrical engineering student that wishes I could have taken some civil engineering courses. Anyways I'm trying to design a pvc structure that I will use as a somewhat complicated room divider. I have the basic design drawn out, but I'm not sure how to design for stability and loading (eg, how many supporting beams to build). I'm familiar with Solidworks and should be able to sketch up a design to do stress testing if that's something useful? I did some basic mechanics from first year, and know how to setup equilibrium equations but I'm not sure if that would be of any help in the design process. I'm open to learning new mathy thing and would love to treat this as a learning experience to solve a practical problem. A nudge in the right direction would be appreciated. Thanks!
The analysis of the structure will greatly vary depending upon the loads, application, section size, etc. Expanding the description of the structure will greatly help in providing specific steps in designing.
The first step would be to estimate the loads on your structure (you most likely may need a safety factor). Your second step would be to have a rough guess at how many members, supports and size sections are required to sustain the loads and then analyse it by hand or using Solidworks. Making use of the stresses found, verify if the members you have selected provides adequate strength. Else design accordingly from first principles and complete the analysis again.
You may be required to reiterate the process a couple of times to get the ideal solution. Also considering it is a room divider, major design procedures will most likely not be required.