Asee peer logo

Engineers Assemble: The Use of Popular Culture in Engineering Education

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session


Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.515.1 - 24.515.6



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Melodie A. Selby PE Walla Walla University

visit author page

Melodie Selby is a civil engineering and environmental science professor at Walla Walla University. A Walla Walla University graduate, she returned to the University in 2009 after 23 years during which she received a master’s degree in environmental engineering, worked as a civil and environmental engineering consultant, and worked in the Nuclear Waste Program and Water Quality Program for the Washington State Department of Ecology.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Engineers Assemble: The Use of Popular Culture in Engineering EducationOther universes appeal to most of us. Our students sometimes seem to spendmost of their time in their favorite alternate universes to the consternation oftheir parents and teachers. However, sometimes we can actually use thoseother universes to explore the concepts we want our students to understand.This paper describes an Environmental Engineering Systems class using anAvengers theme based on the Marvel super hero movies and comics. In theclass, we often explored new concepts in terms of the Marvel Universe beforewe talked about them in terms of our universe. We also used Avengers asmemory aids.The results are primarily anecdotal. The students unanimously were positiveabout the class. Ironically, using the Marvel universe seemed to help themgain an intuitive feel for concepts such as the relationship between mass andenergy, rather than simply parroting equations. Their comments on the classincluded statements like “All my friends in other classes are jealous.” and “Ithelped me see that engineering doesn’t have to be separate from the rest of mylife.” Their level of enthusiasm for the class was higher than students inprevious years.Specific examples of using Marvel- based concepts to explain engineeringconcepts are included. The paper also explores the theory supporting the useof popular culture in education and provides tips for successfully usingpopular culture. The concepts described can be used for many types ofpopular culture – not simply super heroes.

Selby, M. A. (2014, June), Engineers Assemble: The Use of Popular Culture in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20406

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015