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June 2008

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ASEE Annual Conference

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Engineering Education | Materials Science and Engineering


The final results of curriculum development under an NSF, CCLI-EMD sponsored project, “Development of Project-Based Introductory to Materials Engineering Modules” (DUE # #0341633) is discussed. A multi-university team of faculty developed five lecture and three laboratory modules for use in Introductory to Materials courses. This course is required by most engineering programs in the U.S., with an annual enrollment of 50,000 students.1 This freshman/ sophomore class is an ideal place to excite students about their engineering majors and expose them to real world engineering problems. PRIME Modules, Project Based Resources for Introduction to Materials Engineering, utilize modern materials science and engineering technologies and proven education methodologies of active learning and open ended projects. Five classroom modules have been developed and utilized in an Introduction to Materials classes. There is a non-volatile memory module that teaches electronic and magnetic properties in the context of non-volatile memory (such as Flash and M-RAM). In another module, students learn about solid oxide fuel cells and the ceramic nanomaterials used to fabricate them. While studying this emerging application, students learn about ceramics, defects, and phase diagrams. A third module exposes students to fiber reinforced plastics used for civil infrastructure such as bridges. The fundamental content covered includes mechanical properties, diffusion, polymers, and composites. There is a biomaterials module on stents that teaches students about crystallography and mechanical properties of metals. Lastly, a sports materials module teaches the mechanical properties of polymers and composites while exploring more about skis and snowboards. Each classroom module contains background resources for faculty, lecture notes, active in class exercises, homework problems, and a team project. The project is designed to be an open ended research project that engages the student more deeply in the modern technology covered by the module. Detailed information on the content of these modules is published elsewhere.2,3 Further assessment of the modules is included in this paper. Three laboratory modules have been developed that teach the concepts covered in a traditional introduction to materials lab in the context of an engineering scenario designed to illustrate the role a materials engineer plays in industry. The fundamental concepts of crystal structure, defects, mechanical testing, and corrosion are taught in a project where students select a metal for an off-shore oil rig. In another module, students engage in thermal processing, mechanical testing, metallography, and failure analysis in an open ended project to investigate why a steel component failed in a mock application. Students learn about polymer processing and the mechanical properties of composites in a project where they design and fabricate a composite for a hybrid car panel based on optimizing strength and cost. Each lab module contains learning objectives, background resources for faculty, lecture notes, small labs to learn theory and equipment operation, an open ended lab project, and grading rubrics for the writing assignments. The each lab module contains a significant writing assignment that is geared to actually teach writing to the student and to provide a format and context of writing that will be relevant to their future engineering careers.


© 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. This article originally appeared in the proceedings of the 2008 ASEE Annual Conference, and can also be found online at this link.
Conference SessionNSF Grantees Poster SessionPresented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.