2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Making Learning Fun: Implementing a Gamified Approach to Materials Science and Engineering Education

Presented at Materials Division (MATS) Technical Session 3

Materials science plays a critical role in educating future engineers, where knowledge of materials selection is essential for design and problem-solving. However, many programs rely on traditional lecture styles to convey this fundamental knowledge. While these teaching styles can be effective, they provide little opportunity to actively engage and expose learners to memorable experiential learning elements. The COVID-19 pandemic presented a new opportunity to focus on developing unique teaching tools to reach students on virtual platforms. Although the development of these tools was critical in today’s technology-driven society, pandemic teaching and learning remained challenging, which likely contributed to the amplification of virtual gamified learning. In redesigning our first-year engineering curriculum within the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University into the new Integrated Cornerstone Design Projects in Engineering (ENG 1P13) course, an opportunity to re-evaluate our teaching approach was presented, which allowed us to further explore ways to increase student engagement and learner creativity.
This work focuses on the introduction of a gamified active-learning approach to teach materials science within the first-year curriculum. The purpose of this intervention was to enhance the learner experience to demystify the fundamentals by connecting theory to practice. Although pedagogical literature highlights the effectiveness of gamified learning strategies to enhance the learning experience, limited examples were found within the materials science and engineering fields.
In this work, two types of materials science games along with other interactive lab components were successfully implemented in an adaptable fashion for in-person and virtual teaching styles for over 1200 learners. The first type is adapted based on popular board games in efforts to design relatable understandable games such that the students could focus on learning the new materials and not the game rules, “Materials Battleships”, and “Materials Taboo”, where gamified strategies are incorporated to introduce students to materials properties and materials selection. The second involves the design of custom virtual emulators that challenge learners to explore the mechanical and electrical behaviour of materials. The games challenged learners to explore various materials and science concepts in a fun way.
Our survey responses from participating students were used to evaluate the approach; these findings highlight that gamification stimulated students’ interest in material science and motivation to participate. While the majority of students surveyed found the new activities enjoyable, the results also indicate higher learning engagement and increased interest in materials science for upper-level stream selection choice after the open first year. The analysis of these surveys targets what factors were effective in increasing engagement as well as effectiveness in teaching content. The success of gamified learning for material science coupled with the targeted data for improvement and adaption creates a space for significant improvement in the material science curriculum.

  1. Ms. Shayna Earle McMaster University
  2. Ms. Dakota M. Binkley McMaster University
  3. Muhammad Arshad McMaster University
  4. Mr. Andrew Lucentini McMaster University
  5. Dr. Gerald Tembrevilla Orcid 16x16http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0173-8472 McMaster University, Mount Saint Vincent University [biography]
  6. Dr. Bosco Yu PhD, P.Eng Orcid 16x16http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6786-3367 McMaster University, University of Victoria [biography]
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