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Integrating a Research-Grade Simulation Tool in a Second-Year Materials Science Laboratory Course

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 3

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Paper Authors


Aisling Coughlan University of Toledo

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Aisling Coughlan obtained her B.Sc in Biomedical and Advanced Materials (2006) at the School of Science and Engineering, University of Limerick, Ireland, followed by a Ph.D (2009) in Biomedical Materials at the Materials and Surface Science Institute, also located at the University of Limerick. Subsequently, she obtained a position at the Inamori School of Engineering, Alfred University, New York (2009-2013) as an adjunct professor and a postdoctoral researcher in biomaterials and glass science. During her time at Alfred University, Dr. Coughlan taught a wide range of classes including to upper level undergraduate students and graduate students. Dr. Coughlan spent the following 2 years at the School of Materials Engineering at Purdue University as a Visiting Assistant Professor, where she continued her research on glass based materials and taught core material science classes. In January 2016 Dr. Coughlan began her appointment as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Toledo . Dr. Coughlan has authored/contributed to over 40 peer-reviewed journal publications and has presented at international conferences in Europe and the United States.

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Tanya A. Faltens Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Tanya Faltens is the Educational Content Creation Manager for the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) which created the open access cyber-platform. Her technical background is in Materials Science and Engineering (Ph.D. UCLA 2002), and she has several years’ experience in hands-on informal science education, including working at the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley. While at Cal Poly Pomona, she taught the first year engineering course, mentored student capstone research projects, and introduced nanoHUB simulation tools into the undergraduate curriculum in materials science and engineering and electrical engineering courses. Much of her work has focused on introducing STEM concepts to broad audiences and encouraging students, including women and others in traditionally under-represented groups, to consider graduate school.

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux is a Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Food Science from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Food Process Engineering from the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University. She is a member of Purdue’s Teaching Academy. Since 1999, she has been a faculty member within the First-Year Engineering Program, teaching and guiding the design of one of the required first-year engineering courses that engages students in open-ended problem solving and design. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and assessment of modeling and design activities with authentic engineering contexts. She is currently a member of the educational team for the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN).

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Kerrie A Douglas Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Douglas is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Purdue School of Engineering Education. Her research is focused on methods of assessment and evaluation unique to engineering learning contexts.

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David R. Johnson Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Students have difficulty conceptualizing concepts that involve abstractions of phenomena that are not directly visible. In particular, students struggle to understand the atomic-level processes responsible for plastic deformation in metals. This paper reports on an innovative laboratory lesson redesign that better integrates the simulation and traditional tensile test components of a unit on plastic deformation that is completed by second-year Materials Engineering students at [a large midwestern] University. The unit redesign is a joint effort of the Schools of Materials Engineering and Education Engineering, who have worked together over the past four terms to improve the teaching of this laboratory course. The overall goal of this endeavor is to assist students in learning fundamental material science concepts and developing skills of the profession.

The plastic deformation unit includes a traditional tensile-testing component, where students set up and test physical metal samples, as well as a simulation component, where they run a series of tensile tests on metal nanowires that have different orientations with respect to the strain axis. For both the physical and simulation lab components, students create and analyze stress-strain curves. Students compute characteristic parameters for elastic and plastic deformation, make comparisons between the simulation and physical test results and consider the role of dislocations and slip.

This paper will discuss the evolution of the unit and present findings from three semesters worth of data from students’ in-class assessments, laboratory reports, and end-of-semester exams. Lesson learned concerning the integration of the research grade simulation will be shared.

Coughlan, A., & Faltens, T. A., & Diefes-Dux, H. A., & Douglas, K. A., & Johnson, D. R. (2016, June), Integrating a Research-Grade Simulation Tool in a Second-Year Materials Science Laboratory Course Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27317

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