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Innovations In Teaching Mechanics Of Materials In Materials Science And Engineering Departments

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.587.1 - 6.587.4

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Paper Authors

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S. K. Khanna

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David Roylance

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C. H. Jenkins

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

Session 1464

Innovations in Teaching Mechanics of Materials in Materials Science and Engineering Departments David Roylance Massachusetts Institute of Technology C. H. Jenkins and S. K. Khanna South Dakota School of Mines and Technology


Traditional mechanical design employs experimentally obtained or handbook material properties in selection and sizing to develop a product. This approach is increasingly inefficient as designs come to employ modern materials whose processing and resulting properties are themselves an adjustable part of the design process. Both the design process and the engineering curricula used in educating designers can profit from an integration of the materials science and traditional mechanics of materials approaches, as opposed to an artificial separation of these two interlinked disciplines.

The Materials Science and Engineering department at MIT is large enough to offer its own Mechanics of Materials subject, and this subject naturally seeks to blend the materials and mechanics aspects of the discipline. A series of NSF-sponsored, web-available modules is being prepared to support this approach, along with Java applets and other electronic teaching aids. The paper provides an overview of this effort, emphasising the teaching of fracture mechanics and microstructural failure mechanisms.

I. Introduction Most engineers are involved in design, and they generally design articles of commercial importance using selected materials. (Software engineers might be an exception.) University curricula in engineering are aimed at providing the underlying fundamental knowledge needed in design work, and often try to teach or at least provide some experience in aspects of the design process itself. In the case of load-bearing structural items, design requires at least two major disciplines: mechanics, the primarily mathematical description of the stresses and strains induced in an object by applied loads; and materials, the description of how the material will respond to these stresses and strains.

Structural engineering students encounter the mechanics aspect of mechanical design in a sophomore or Junior-level subject usually named Mechanics of Materials, using texts such as those of Beer and Johnston1 or Gere2. These texts usually follow the approach pioneered by the great mechanics educator Stephen P. Timoshenko (1878-1972)3, and deal principally with stress analysis of simple structures assuming linear elasticity. Most of these traditional texts are of fine quality, although over the years they have become considerably larger than can be covered in a single term. Further, they have little coverage of the relations between the material’s mechanical response and its chemistry or microstructure, nor do they deal much with softer, anisotropic and time-dependent non-metallic materials now becoming increasingly important in biomedical design and other newer aspects of engineering practice.

It is common in engineering curricula to require students to take a subject in Materials Science, using a text such as that of Callister4 or Shackelford5. This, along with core chemistry and physics subjects, is intended to supply a sufficient coverage of the materials aspects of structural analysis and design. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of the syllabus typically covers topics dealing with mechanical response. This leaves the student to discern the linkage between these two aspects of mechanical design, and it is easy to perceive the materials and mechanics subjects as unrelated entities. This leaves the materials subject as an “academic promontory,” with structural engineering students wondering why they had to take it.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Khanna, S. K., & Roylance, D., & Jenkins, C. H. (2001, June), Innovations In Teaching Mechanics Of Materials In Materials Science And Engineering Departments Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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