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Group Projects to Induce Active Learning in Introductory Material Science Courses for Chemical and Mechanical Engineering Students

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session

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Paper Authors


Zhihua Xu University of Minesota Duluth

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Zhihua Xu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he teaches Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics, Properties of Engineering Materials, and Chemical Reaction Engineering. His research interest includes organic semiconductors, light harvesting materials, and solution-processed photovoltaic devices. Dr. Xu received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at University of Tennessee in 2008, followed by a postdoctoral research associate position at Brookhaven National Lab before he joined the University of Minnesota Duluth at 2012.

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Victor Lai University of Minnesota - Duluth

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Victor Lai completed his PhD in Materials Science at the University of Minnesota. in August 2013, with his thesis work involving understanding the complex structure-composition-function relationships in native and engineered soft tissues under the mentorship of Dr. Victor Barocas. Dr. Lai is currently an Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota - Duluth, with research interests in Chemical Engineering education, Biomechanics of soft tissues, and Tissue Engineering.

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Ping Zhao University of Minnesota Duluth

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Dr. Ping Zhao is currently an Assistant Professor at Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). She received her PhD from City University of New York in 2009. Prior to joining UMD, Dr. had worked as a postdoctoral scholar in both University of California Los Angeles and University of Wisconsin-Madison from 2010 to 2012. Her research focuses on smart materials and devices, advanced materials and composites, and Micro/nanomechanics, etc.

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While an introduction to Material Science and Engineering (MSE) course is part of the core curriculum in many Engineering fields such as Mechanical and Chemical Engineering, many students often display a lack of interest in the subject matter, and struggle to see the relevance of the material to their Engineering field. To address this issue, the authors adopted a project-based learning approach in two introductory material science classes. The goal is to stimulate interest in the subject matter by providing students with the opportunity to apply fundamental Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) principles learned in the classroom to a material of their choice and interest. The student learning outcomes of this project are: (1) apply key concepts of the Material Science tetrahedron (processing, structure, properties, and performance) to their material of choice; (2) organize research material obtained from internet and book resources into a cohesive written report and oral presentation (including hands-on demonstrations); and (3) demonstrate good teamwork and interpersonal communication skills between group members. In this paper, the effect of group projects on stimulating students learning interest and improving their learning effectiveness is evaluated based on the direct outcome (reports and presentations) of the group projects, questionnaires, and student performance in exams. Our results suggest group project is an effective complement to traditional classroom lectures to improve student learning motivation and performance for introductory MSE courses.

Xu, Z., & Lai, V., & Zhao, P. (2017, June), Group Projects to Induce Active Learning in Introductory Material Science Courses for Chemical and Mechanical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28424

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