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Facilitating Interdisciplinary Problem Solving Among Pre-collegiate Engineering Students via Materials Science Principles

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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

Teaching Problem Solving in a Multidisciplinary Context

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.750.1 - 26.750.20



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Paper Authors


Denia Djokic University of California, Berkeley

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Denia Djokic is a postdoctoral researcher in nuclear engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Djokic received her PhD in nuclear engineering from UC Berkeley in 2013 as a graduate fellow of the Department of Energy’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. She also received her MS from UC Berkeley in 2007 and her BS in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2005. Her academic interests range from radioactive waste management, advanced nuclear fuel cycle systems, and nuclear security policy to energy science and technology, energy sustainability, engineering ethics, and engineering education. She is a national member of the American Nuclear Society and a founding member of Nuclear Pride.

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Wil V. Srubar III University of Colorado, Boulder

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Wil V. Srubar III is an assistant professor of civil, environmental, and architectural engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. Prof. Srubar received his PhD in structural engineering and materials science from Stanford University in 2013. He received his bachelors degree in civil engineering and architectural history from Texas A&M University in 2006 and his masters degree in civil, architectural, and environmental engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 2008. His research interests include sustainable materials science, interdisciplinary engineering education, and the retention of underrepresented groups in engineering. He is an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Architectural Engineering Institute, and the American Concrete Institute, and he is affiliated with the United States Green Building Council.

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Facilitating Interdisciplinary Problem-Solving among Pre- Collegiate Engineering Students via Materials Science PrinciplesGiven that fundamental materials science principles transcend traditional disciplinaryboundaries, a grand opportunity exists to leverage materials science concepts to facilitatemultidisciplinary teaching and learning. This paper presents the development andimplementation of a three-phase teaching module designed to foster organic, cross-disciplinarydiscourse and learning among pre-collegiate engineering students. Thirty domestic andinternational high school students were selected for an introductory four-week summer course inengineering. The students were divided into two classes, either civil engineering or nuclearengineering, according to their disciplinary preferences. In Phase I of the interdisciplinarymodule, the students were taught fundamental discipline-specific concepts in separateclassrooms by their respective instructor (e.g., static equilibrium, nuclear reactor physics) overthe course of one week. In Phase II, a joint lecture on diffusion, a materials science topic ofmutual importance to both disciplines, was given to all students and facilitated by bothinstructors. In Phase III, the students worked in mixed, interdisciplinary teams in a structuredproblem-solving session in which they were asked to apply their knowledge of static equilibrium,diffusion, and nuclear principles to solve engineering design problems regarding reactor pressurevessels and radioactive waste casks.The effectiveness of this collaborative module in promoting cross-disciplinary learning wasassessed through an analysis of student responses to an anonymous survey. The results show thatthe module was effective in (a) teaching students the fundamental principles of diffusion, (b)fostering peer-to-peer teaching and learning, and (c) emphasizing the importance of teamworkand problem-solving across disciplines. The results also indicate that students developed abroader view regarding the applicability of their knowledge beyond their own disciplinaryboundaries. Given its universality, this materials-focused teaching module has the potential toserve as an effective model to foster interdisciplinary teaching and learning between otherengineering disciplines.

Djokic, D., & Srubar, W. V. (2015, June), Facilitating Interdisciplinary Problem Solving Among Pre-collegiate Engineering Students via Materials Science Principles Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24087

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