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PRIME Modules: Teaching Introduction to Materials Engineering in the Context of Modern Technologies
Proceedings of the 2007 American Society for Engineering Education 1576 (2007)
  • Stacy H. Gleixner, San Jose State University
  • E. Douglas, University of Florida
  • O. Graeve

This paper discusses the progress of curriculum development under an NSF, CCLI-EMD sponsored work, “Development of Project-Based Introductory to Materials Engineering Modules” (DUE # #0341633). A multi-university team of faculty is developing five lecture 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. This freshman/ sophomore class is an ideal place to excite students about their engineering majors and expose them to real world engineering experiences. PRIME Modules are being developed that teach the fundamentals of a traditional introduction to materials engineering course in the context of modern technologies. The key objectives of the modules are to show students how the fundamental principles are interrelated to each other and applied to modern applications. Five classroom modules have been developed that each focus on a different technology. Each classroom module contains background resources for faculty on the technology, lecture notes including instructor notes, active in-class exercises, homework problems, and a team project. The project is designed to be open-ended to engage the students more deeply in the modern technology covered by the module. There is a microelectronics module where students learn about the fundamentals of electronic and magnetic properties. The teaching of these fundamentals is done within the scope of learning about options for non-volatile memory (such as Flash and M-RAM). There is a module focusing on alternative energy where students study solid oxide fuel cells and the ceramic nanomaterials used to fabricate them. While exploring this emerging application, students learn the basics of ceramics, defects, and phase diagrams. Structure, processing, and mechanical properties of polymers and composites are taught in a module on fiber reinforced plastics used for civil infrastructures. A biomaterials module on stents teaches students about crystallography, mechanical properties and strengthening mechanisms of metals, and phase diagrams. In a sports materials module, students learn about the processing and mechanical properties of polymers and composites within the context of materials used for skis. Initial assessment on the modules indicates that most students enjoy the PRIME module class more than their other engineering classes and self-report that they learn more than in their other engineering classes. Assessment of student learning by the Materials Concept Inventory Quiz indicates that students learn basic materials principles at the same level as a traditional course. Feedback from students’ written surveys indicates they value seeing the material in the context of an application and the repetition of topics. Students also comment positively on the curriculum aspects of the module including the lecture notes, active class exercises, and extensive support on the website. While most of the feedback from students is positive, some students do not favor the module format. Their primary reasons are that they feel the projects introduce extra work and they are bothered by not following the textbook in sequential order.

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Stacy H. Gleixner, E. Douglas and O. Graeve. "PRIME Modules: Teaching Introduction to Materials Engineering in the Context of Modern Technologies" Proceedings of the 2007 American Society for Engineering Education 1576 (2007)
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