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Exciting Students About Materials Science And Engineering: A Project Based, Service Learning Museum Design Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Teaching Methods for the 21st Century: Part 1

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.704.1 - 12.704.13



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Paper Authors


Katherine Chen California Polytechnic State University

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Katherine C. Chen is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Materials Engineering Department at the California Polytechnic ("Cal Poly") State University, San Luis Obispo. She received a B.A. in Chemistry and a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan State University. Her Ph.D. is in Materials Science from MIT. She is active in outreach activities and has a strong interest in informal science education.

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

Exciting Students about Materials Science & Engineering: a project-based, service-learning museum design course


A new course was developed for Materials Engineering students to design, create, and install interactive, educational displays on Materials Science & Engineering for a science museum at a local K-6 charter school. The course grew out of an ASM Foundation grant “to excite young people in materials, science, and engineering careers,” and the challenge was put forth to Cal Poly students. A formal design sequence was applied to give the students the opportunity to learn about the design process, project management, and teamwork. User profiles were created for the stakeholders, and project values were established. The class partnered with the museum curator to develop functional and design requirements for the displays, and to gain valuable feedback during the project development. Guest lectures and discussions with museum exhibit developers, education specialists, and design experts assisted the class. Three different displays that highlighted materials were developed: “Metallic Trampoline” (amorphous metal), “Smart Materials” (NiTi shape memory alloys), and “Touch and See” (heat sensing liquid crystals). The final museum displays were well received by the client and end users. A survey at the end of the quarter revealed that the engineering students gained valuable design and project experiences.

A partnership with the SciTechatorium develops

This projects class grew out of the Cal Poly Materials Engineering department outreach efforts1 and the desire to connect more with the community. The relationship between Cal Poly and the Bellvue Santa-Fe Charter School in Avila, CA was initiated through a colleague whose children attend the school. The SciTechatorium2 (Figure 1a) is a 1900 square foot “hands on” science museum and discovery room that houses a plethora of science demonstrations, exhibits, reptiles, insects, etc (Figure 1b), and is quite a gem in the central California area. The SciTechatorium essentially houses all the show-and-tell items and treasures of Mr. Chick Fidel, a retired high school physics teacher who now acts as the part-time museum curator.

a) b) Figure 1. a) The SciTechatorium at the Bellvue Santa-Fe K-6 Charter school in Avila, CA houses b) numerous demos and items that promote scientific inquiry for all ages.

Chen, K. (2007, June), Exciting Students About Materials Science And Engineering: A Project Based, Service Learning Museum Design Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1995

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