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A Mechanics of Materials Outreach Activity – Reconstructing the Human Body: Biomaterials and Biomimicry

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1.1 - 26.1.20



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Paper Authors


Michelle M. Blum Syracuse University

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My research focus is in mechanics, materials and tribology. This work utilizes mechanical engineering fundamentals, multi-scale experimental techniques, and computational modeling to develop, characterize and study high performance materials for tribological (friction and wear), structural, and biomedical applications.
I am also involved with advising and outreach. I am a founding member of the Advisory Committee for the WiSE Women of Color in STEM Program. I have also participated in college level outreach programs; specifically developing a hands-on activity to introduce students to the fundamental material science, mechanics and biomedical engineering through the concept of biomimicry.

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Katie D. Cadwell Syracuse University

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Katie Cadwell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering at Syracuse University, where she has taught Chemical Engineering core courses since 2011. After receiving Chemical Engineering degrees from the Missouri University of Science and Technology (B.S.) and University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D.), she pursued a postdoctoral position in engineering education and outreach with the Interdisciplinary Education Group of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at UW-Madison. Prior to moving to Syracuse, she taught for several years at Madison Area Technical College. Her interests include development of engineering faculty attitudes and pedagogy, teaching professional skills in the engineering classroom, and engineering outreach at the K-12 level.

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Julie M. Hasenwinkel Syracuse University

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Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs & Student Affairs
Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244

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A Mechanics of Materials Outreach Activity: Reconstructing the Human Body: Biomaterials and Biomimicry Future generations of scientists and engineers will need to be inspired through interestingactivities that link the natural world with scientific theory. The science classes that high schoolstudents, college freshmen and sophomores take typically present collections of theories in waysthat do not foster creativity, experimentation and curiosity. As a result, students increasingly failto pursue STEM careers. For the past 10 years the number of high school seniors who plan onentering an engineering career has dropped more than 35% [1]. Additionally, attrition rates ofengineering disciplines have been as high as 50% [2]. Consequently, it is imperative that highschools and universities stimulate and foster curiosity early on in a student’s academic career.Early exposure to hands-on laboratory experiments has been shown to increase student retentionby promoting discussions and forming connections between observations and learnedengineering concepts [3]. The objective of the outreach activity is to give students an introduction to fundamentalmaterial science, mechanics and biomedical engineering concepts while encouragingimagination, inquiry and excitement. This was accomplished through a hands-on activity thatexposes the students the area of biomimetics; namely, solving complex problems by imitatingsystems and elements in nature [4]. One of the largest areas of biomimetic inspiration is thehuman body. From this concept, student groups are tasked with designing a synthetic musclereplacement that mimics the mechanical properties of natural tissue. First, using given resourcesand their intrinsic knowledge of forces and materials, groups design a muscle replacement for adistal bicep fracture and predict its mechanical performance. Second, a tensile analysis isperformed on the “implant” to determine the viability of the design. Finally, students revise theirpredictions of the tensile material performance and their overall design based upon the resultsand mechanics concepts introduced during the activity. This activity has been piloted with a college freshman introductory engineering courseand a summer engineering camp for middle school-aged children. Its efficacy was determinedthrough results obtained from an activity worksheet and post-activity questionnaire. From thesetools several conclusions were drawn. Students had difficulty predicting the material response ofthe scaffold; however, they were able to grasp the overall concept of biomimicry and directionalstrengthening of a material. Finally, students found the activity exciting, engaging andinspirational. This biomimetic activity interrelates several concepts and provides a link betweenmaterial science, mechanics and biomedical engineering.References1. Marra, R.M., Rodgers, K.A., Shen, D., Bogue, B., Leaving Engineering: A Multi-Year Single Institution Study. Journal of Engineering Education, 2012. 101(1): p. 6-27.2. Vetter, B.M., Demographics of the Engineering Student Pipeline. Engineering Education, 1988. 78(8): p. 735-740.3. Knight, D.W., Carlson, L.E., Sullivan, J.F., Staying in Engineering: Impact of a Hands-On, Team-Based, First-Year Projects Course on Student Retention. in Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition.4. Benyus, J.M., Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. 1997, New York, NY: HarperCollins. Figure 1: Schematic overview of design project showing (1) creation of replacement scaffold implanted into (2) a distal bicep rupture in order to (3) repair the injury.

Blum, M. M., & Cadwell, K. D., & Hasenwinkel, J. M. (2015, June), A Mechanics of Materials Outreach Activity – Reconstructing the Human Body: Biomaterials and Biomimicry Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23334

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