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A College Wide Materials Testing Lab: A Unique Approach For Hands On Experience

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Unique Laboratory Experiments and Programs

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.18.1 - 11.18.8



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Paper Authors


John Williams University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign

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John Williams is Manager of the Materials Testing Instructional Lab (MTIL), a College of Engineering facility at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He obtained his doctorate in Engineering Science and Mechanics from N. C. State University in 1978. He joined UIUC in his present position in 1994 as an Academic Professional.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A College-wide Materials Testing Instructional Lab A Unique Approach for Hands-on Experience Introduction Engineering education requires the assimilation of knowledge of physical phenomena. To understand mechanical behavior and subsequent design parameters, it is essential to directly observe the deformation of materials. However, the physical and financial resources required are extensive. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign the approach is to establish college-wide laboratories to serve all students in all departments. The Mechanical Testing Instructional Lab is a college-wide lab dedicated to mechanical property experimentation. In this paper, there is a description of the equipment, relationship to courses, typical procedures and general administration. History1 In the early 1970’s, state budget cuts forced the elimination of funding for instructional equipment and laboratories. Rapid changes in technology, particularly the growing application of computing, presented challenges to maintain quality in the instructional laboratories in the College of Engineering. A funding program in the 1980’s helped to revitalize some of the engineering lab facilities; however, many objectives were unfulfilled. The realization of the importance of computer technologies by industry prompted significant contributions by technology companies. The Illinois Society of Professional Engineers promoted the establishment of the Illinois Engineering Equipment Grant Program for the purchase of lab equipment and other resources. The need to use College of Engineering resources more effectively was recognized. Advances in computer systems and applications made the integration of computer facilities an obvious area for consolidation. Before 1990, there was duplication of computing workstation hardware and software by individual departments. Typically, software had to be accessed within the physical boundaries of a particular department. In 1991, the first Engineering Workstation Laboratory was established. The expansion of these centers opened access to computing services from many locations across the campus. Two other college-wide facilities were created in the early 1990’s, the Computer-Integrated Manufacturing Laboratory and the Control Systems Laboratory. A faculty group began consideration of a mechanical properties laboratory in 1992. The study of the mechanical behavior of materials was an important part of many departmental curricula; however, departments did not have the resources to finance instructional facilities with first-class equipment. Typically, experiments were conducted in facilities that were heavily used, did not allow hands-on experience, and incorporated equipment that was old or borrowed from research programs. The usual format was a teaching assistant conducting the experiment while a group of students watched. Equipment was often located in a research setting and the tests were difficult to observe. The primary need was an introductory laboratory that would allow students access to quality equipment, provide maintenance of equipment and updated software, and train teaching assistants.

Williams, J. (2006, June), A College Wide Materials Testing Lab: A Unique Approach For Hands On Experience Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1399

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