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Engineering Students' Comprehension of Phase Diagram Concepts: An International Sample

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 4

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Oscar Sanchez-Mata McGill University

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Oscar Sanchez-Mata is a PhD candidate in Materials Engineering at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) in Prof. Mathieu Brochu's Powder Processing and Additive Manufacturing of Advanced Materials Lab. He recieved a bachelors degree in Engineering Physics from Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico. His research focuses on microstructure and mechanical properties of additively manufactured metallic materials, including stainless steels, titanium, and nickel-based alloys. Further research interests include physics and engineering education, collaborating with Prof. Genaro Zavala's Physics Education Research and Innovation Group at Tecnologico de Monterrey (Monterrey, Mexico).

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Mathieu Brochu McGill University

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Prof. Brochu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering at McGill University, a Gerald Hatch Engineering Faculty Fellow on Additive Manufacturing and the Director of the Powder Processing and Additive Manufacturing of Advanced Materials Laboratory. He is codirector of the NSERC network on Holistic Innovation on Additive Manufacturing and co-director of the Canadian Additive Manufacturing Network. Prior to Joining McGill in 2004, Prof. Brochu held key AM-related positions: he was the Research Officer on electron beam welding and freeforming of aerospace materials at the NRC-IAR-AMTC, and Post Doctoral Fellow at Sandia National Laboratories. He is leading research projects in two main fields: (1) additive manufacturing and joining of advanced materials, and (2) high heating rate sintering processes. He received several distinctions, including the ASM Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers (2009), the METSOC Brimacombe Award (2011) and the AAC Donald I. Johnson Award (2014).

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Genaro Zavala Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico and Universidad Andres Bello, Chile Orcid 16x16

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Genaro Zavala is a Full Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Engineering and Sciences at Tecnologico de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico. He collaborates with the Faculty of Engineering of the Universidad Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile. Professor Zavala is National Researcher Level 1 of the National System of Researchers of Mexico. He works with the following research lines: conceptual understanding, active learning, development of assessment tools, faculty development and studies in STEM. Genaro Zavala was appointed to the editorial board of the Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research journal of the American Physical Society for the period 2015 to 2018, vice president of the Latin American Physics Education Network (LAPEN) for the period 2013-2015 and is currently the coordinator of the Topical Group: Evaluation of Learning and Instruction of the International Group for Research and Teaching of Physics (GIREP by its French acronym). Dr. Zavala is a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) where he was vice president candidate, a member of the Committee on Research in Physics Education (RIPE) a member and chair of the International Education Committee and elected member of Leadership Organizing Physics Education Research Council (PERLOC) in the period 2015-2018.

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Materials science is an essential discipline for students in the mechanical and metallurgical engineering programs because many of them find jobs in industries where materials are relevant, such as electronics, aerospace, and automobile. Phase diagrams have proven to be a topic in materials science in which students demonstrate alternate conceptions. An essential first step in constructing a pedagogical approach to teaching phase diagrams in a specific program is to assess the students' conceptions.

There has been significant interest in improving the teaching of materials science in general and phase diagrams in particular in two top universities, one in Mexico and the other in Canada. In both universities, there are successful mechanical engineering programs in which materials science is part of the curricula. In this research, we implemented a project aimed to improve the students' conceptions of crucial concepts in materials science.

In this work, as a first step, we used an instrument inspired by items from the Materials Science Concept Evaluation (MSCE) to assess students' understanding of concepts related to phase diagrams. In addition to multiple-choice questions, we asked for their reasoning to deepen our understanding of their conceptions. We added open-ended items with corresponding spaces for their reasoning. We administered that instrument to undergraduate engineering students from these two universities after the phase diagram topics were covered. With the analysis of the multiple-choice and open-ended questions combined with a qualitative method to categorize the students' approach to each item, we present in this paper the students' conceptions and difficulties they had with this topic. We concluded that students in both countries had difficulties with the identification of phase fractions, the compositions of both alloys and individual phases, and solid solubility in binary phase diagrams.

Sanchez-Mata, O., & Brochu, M., & Zavala, G. (2020, June), Engineering Students' Comprehension of Phase Diagram Concepts: An International Sample Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34561

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