2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

A New Paradigm for Learning the Fundamentals of Materials Science & Engineering

Presented at Materials Division (MATS) Technical Session 3

The learning and understanding of the fundamentals of materials science and engineering is difficult and nonengaging for many students. There are undoubtedly a number of reasons for this, to include the following: (1) the inclusion of little (or no) relevance for subject materials presented and discussed; and (2) the provision of few opportunities for conceptual learning. Many MSE topics are highly conceptual in nature, and in the typical course most assignments and tests concentrate on solving numerical problems.
This paper discusses an approach that incorporates two features not found in traditional introductory courses. One is the inclusion of questions that require the students to explain materials concepts found in the course textbook. The other involves the paradigm of materials science and engineering, which consists of four components that relate to one another as follows: the performance of a material is dependent on its properties; the properties are determined based on the structure elements of the material; and the character of the structural elements depend on how the material is processed. Assignments are made wherein the student is required to explain, for a specific material or phenomenon, how one paradigm component relates to another component. For example, provide an explanation as to why the mechanical properties (relatively low strength and high ductility) of a spheroiditic iron-carbon alloy are related to its microstructure.

  1. Dr. David G. Rethwisch The University of Iowa [biography]
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