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Enhancing Fundamental Materials Engineering Education Using Biomedical Devices And Case Studies

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Introduction to Materials Courses

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.567.1 - 14.567.22



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Paper Authors

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Kathleen Kitto Western Washington University

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

Enhancing Fundamental Materials Engineering Education Using Biomedical Devices and Case Studies


During the past six years several best practices in teaching and learning have been implemented in our Introduction to Materials Engineering course to transform the course from a traditional lecture only course to a course that is centered on conceptual and active learning. In addition, this academic year the content of the course was also reshaped so that this course also serves as the fundamental materials engineering component of a new three course sequence within a new minor in materials science. The minor is interdisciplinary so the student audience now includes engineering technology, chemistry, physics, geology, and manufacturing and supply chain management majors.

Biomedical devices and case studies, nanoengineering, and bioinspired materials have been introduced as focus areas with the intention of improving student learning in fundaments from crystal structure, to materials selection based on mechanical properties/design criteria, and to phase transformations. Also, the course content was changed to build student interest while also finding new and challenging ways to improve the course based upon previously identified course learning objective outcomes that needed improvement. Conceptually, teaching fundamentals in multiple ways, especially in ways which build scaffolds from the students’ previous knowledge base, should be effective for a wide range of learners. As it turns out, the materials used in biomedical devices which experience significant loads during service, such as orthopedic replacement devices (knees, shoulders, and hips) and stents, provide another accessible platform to enhance materials engineering education.

Students who enter the course have some conceptual idea of what a hip replacement is or why an arterial stent might be needed. But, they have no idea of what materials are used in these devices or why particular materials are selected for components. To illustrate, it is essential that the elastic constant of the femoral stem in a hip replacement match the elastic constant of bone or bone loss will occur from stress shielding. Conceptually this is very easy for the student to grasp. Since ultra high molecular weight polyethylene is used in orthopedic wear components, it is possible to conceptually link the required mechanical properties of components to the effect of the degree of polymerization, examine the difference between semi-crystalline and amorphous plastics, and probe wear properties. Arterial stents are often made from shape memory materials which are excellent venues for hands-on learning about phase transitions. Device recall case studies provide an opportunity to link manufacturing to materials to in-service failures.

This paper describes the detailed learning objectives for the course that are addressed with this new strategy and specifics on the biomedical devices, including materials, selection criteria and case studies, so that other faculty may use them in their courses. Initial assessment data that examines the effectiveness of the approach, preliminary data on student learning styles, and student perceptions about the effectiveness of this approach are also discussed in the paper. Pre- and post-course concept questionnaires and traditional tests scores were also used to evaluate this approach. The paper concludes with summary of the assessment information and future directions for this course.

Kitto, K. (2009, June), Enhancing Fundamental Materials Engineering Education Using Biomedical Devices And Case Studies Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5506

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