Status and Evolution of Accreditation for Materials Programs in the U.S.

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G. S. Cargill III1 and C. J. Van Tyne2

1 Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA.
2 Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, 80401, USA.

ABSTRACT

Undergraduate materials education in the United States is healthy and growing. The number of students graduating with B.S. level materials degrees increased by 18% from 2004 (817 graduates) to 2007 (963 graduates). Materials programs continue to evolve and diversify, with an increasingly wider variety of program titles. Nearly all of these programs are accredited by ABET, the accreditation agency in the U.S. for engineering, technology, applied science and computer science. Accreditation criteria were changed significantly during the period 1999 – 2001, to be less prescriptive and to be more outcomes based. This new approach to accreditation has resulted in both benefits and burdens. The post-2000 accreditation requirements and procedures have facilitated diversification, with each program developing its own Program Educational Objectives and having wide latitude in deciding how to achieve the ABET-required Program Outcomes. The ABET Program Criteria for materials and related engineering fields also allow programs to vary widely in their emphasis and focus, while requiring that the program titles realistically describe their topical coverage. Although a study commissioned by ABET reported a “positive, sometimes substantial, impact on engineering programs, student experiences, and student learning” of the new approach to accreditation, some faculty members feel burdened by the formality, documentation, and self-study reports required by ABET, and they question whether these efforts are worthwhile and actually lead to improvements in educational programs.

Add comment August 22, 2009

Creating a Project-Based Curriculum in Materials Engineering

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Katherine C. Chen1, Linda Vanasupa1, Blair London1, Trevor Harding1, Richard Savage1, William Hughes1, and Jonathan Stolk2

1 Materials Engineering Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA; 2 Franklin W. Olin College, Needham, Massachusetts, USA

ABSTRACT

For the past two years, the Cal Poly Materials Engineering department has been on an endeavor to create a modern, innovative curriculum to train a more diverse set of materials engineers for the global and complex world of the 21st century. The traditional lecture and laboratory activities have evolved into more open-ended, project-based experiences that help students develop additional skills and contextualize the learning of theories. Different types of projects are embedded throughout the curriculum to achieve particular learning objectives while emphasizing different content. During class time, students are extremely active and the faculty act as coaches and mentors to the students.

This different approach to learning is designed to encourage students to become more independent self-learners, as well as to better integrate concepts with practical experiences. The varied activities and skills associated with the team projects allow different learning types to excel at different aspects. Thus far, the response from students and faculty about the projects-based curriculum has been positive. However, challenges remain for students and faculty with the transition to new roles and a different way of learning.

Add comment August 22, 2009

On the Implementation of Virtual Machines in Computer Aided Education

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Leszek A. Dobrzański and Rafał Honysz

Institute of Engineering Materials and Biomaterials, Silesian University of Technology, Konarskiego St. 18a, 44-100 Gliwice, Poland. leszek.dobrzanski@polsl.pl, rafal.honysz@polsl.pl

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this article is to describe the Materials Science Virtual Laboratory, which is an open scientific, investigative, simulating and didactic medium helpful in the realization of the didactic and educational tasks from the field of material engineering, in the Institute of Engineering Materials and Biomaterials of the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, Poland. The use possibilities of such a virtual laboratory are practically unrestricted. It can be a base for any studies, course or training programme performed by traditional and e-learning methods. Practically imperishable, cheap in exploitation and safe in usage, virtual simulated scientific equipment encourages students and scientific workers to independent discussions and experiments, in situations where the possibilities for their execution in the physical research laboratory are restricted. During the work with the simulations, users learn the functioning principles, as well as being exposed to the investigations and experimental guidance methodology of the real device that is simulated. As an implementation example of the laboratory for didactic and educational tasks, several virtual workrooms with equipment simulations and didactic materials are presented. This project corresponds also with the global trend of expanding investigative and academic centers by means of training and experiments performed with the aid of virtual reality.

Add comment August 22, 2009

Molecular Recycling: Application of the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry in the Diversion of Post-consumer Poly(lactic acid) Waste

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Jennifer N. Boice1, Christina M. King1, Carol Higginbotham2 and Richard W. Gurney11Department of Chemistry, Simmons College, 300 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115-5895, USA
*(Tel) +01.617.521.2729 (Fax) +01.617.521.3086

2Central Oregon Community College, Bend, OR 97701, USA

ABSTRACT
An increase in worldwide environmental consciousness has led to a movement to pursue methods of synthesis and reclamation that are environmentally friendly, or “green.” Biodegradable, single-use, polylactic acid (PLA) cups, containers and utensils produced by Natureworks LLC from corn derived lactic acid are produced while generating water as the only byproduct. These plastic consumables, already a product of benign design, can be hydrolyzed into lactic acid (LA) using an acidic or basic hydrolysis procedure. The initial design and commercial manufacture of these PLA consumables currently provides an opportunity to discuss the Twelve Principles of Green Engineering in many educational settings. As described herein, the reclamation of lactic acid from these consumables provides a unique opportunity to involve students in the application of the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry in theory and in practice. The procedures described herein can be applied to several laboratory based courses: General Organic Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Introduction to Organic Chemistry for Allied Health Majors and a two-semester Organic Chemistry Course. An extension of this pedagogy to open-inquiry based laboratories or research experiences for the production of ethyl lactate will also be described.

Add comment May 5, 2008

Model-Eliciting Activities: A Case-Based Approach for Getting Students Interested in Material Science and Engineering

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Tamara J. Moore
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota, 230A Peik Hall, 159 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA; tamara@umn.edu

ABSTRACT

Attracting students to engineering is a challenge. In addition, ABET requires that engineering graduates be able to work on multi-disciplinary teams and apply mathematics and science when solving engineering problems. One manner of integrating teamwork and engineering contexts in a first-year foundation engineering course is through the use of Model-Eliciting Activities (MEAs) - realistic, client-driven problems based on the models and modeling theoretical framework. A Model-Eliciting Activity (MEA) is a real-world client-driven problem. The solution of an MEA requires the use of one or more mathematical or engineering concepts that are unspecified by the problem - students must make new sense of their existing knowledge and understandings to formulate a generalizable mathematical model that can be used by the client to solve the given and similar problems. An MEA creates an environment in which skills beyond mathematical abilities are valued because the focus is not on the use of prescribed equations and algorithms but on the use of a broader spectrum of skills required for effective engineering problem-solving. Carefully constructed MEAs can begin to prepare students to communicate and work effectively in teams; to adopt and adapt conceptual tools; to construct, describe, and explain complex systems; and to cope with complex systems. MEAs provide a learning environment that is tailored to a more diverse population than typical engineering course experiences as they allow students with different backgrounds and values to emerge as talented, and that adapting these types of activities to engineering courses has the potential to go beyond “filling the gaps” to “opening doors” to women and underrepresented populations in engineering. Further, MEAs provide evidence of student development in regards to ABET standards. Through NSF-funded grants, multiple MEAs have been developed and implemented with a MSE-flavored nanotechnology theme. This paper will focus on the content, implementation, and student results of two of these MEAs.

Add comment March 24, 2008

Converting Traditional Materials Labs to Project-based Learning Experiences: Aiding Students’ Development of Higher-order Cognitive Skills

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Linda Vanasupa , Katherine C. Chen, Jonathan Stolk2, Richard Savage, Trevor Harding, Blair London, and William Hughes
1California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California
2Franklin W. Olin College, Needham, Massachusetts

ABSTRACT

Against a backdrop of compelling societal needs, graduates in science and engineering now must master their disciplines and demonstrate a sophisticated level of cognitive, affective and social development. This has lead a number of national and international commissions on science and engineering to urge educators to re-think the way in which Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines are taught. We have chosen to “repackage” a traditional undergraduate materials engineering curriculum in a form designed to promote the development of higher-order cognitive skills like self-directed learning and design. Classic metallurgy experiments have been converted to project-based learning experiences where students are put in the role of “designers” of problem solutions and faculty play the role of coaches. These include: designing, prototyping and marketing of a cast metal object; systems designing, building and testing of a fiber optic spectrometer; product improvement of a prosthetic device; design and evaluation of a heat treatment process for roller bearings. Projects were designed to leverage known relationships within the educational psychology literature that enable deeper learning. Evaluation of 36 juniors in a project-based learning course (i.e., the test cohort) against a quasi-control group in traditional engineering courses showed that the test cohort scored significantly higher on two motivation scales shown to be critical components in self-directed learning (p<0.001). The test cohort also reported a significantly higher use of peers as learning resources than the quasi-control group. Their motivation scores also correlate highly with self-reported comfort with several aspects of design, implying that their motivation contributes significantly to students’ ability to effectively engage in the design process. In this paper, we present examples of the materials engineering projects that were designed and implemented, and the design features that enable them to promote the development of sophisticated cognitive functioning.

Add comment March 24, 2008


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