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Integrating Experiential with Technical: How Materials Science Modules Can Help Redefine the Traditional Engineering Canon

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 1

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Paper Authors


Bre Przestrzelski University of San Diego

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Bre Przestrzelski, PhD, is a post-doctoral research associate in the General Engineering department in the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, where she seeks to innovatively integrate social justice, humanitarian advancement, and peace into the traditional engineering canon.

Before joining USD in August 2017, Bre spent 9 years at Clemson University, where she was a three-time graduate of the bioengineering program (BS, MS, and PhD), founder of The Design & Entrepreneurship Network (DEN), and Division I rower. In her spare time, Bre teaches design thinking workshops for higher education faculty/administrators at the Stanford d.School, coaches a global community of learners through IDEO U, and fails miserably at cooking.

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Elizabeth A. Reddy University of San Diego

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Elizabeth Reddy is a post-doctoral research associate at the University of San Diego’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering. She is a social scientist, holding a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California at Irvine and an MA in Social Science from the University of Chicago. She is Co-Chair of the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology and Computing in the American Anthropological Association. She studies experts and their work in relation to environments, technologies, and human lives. Her current research projects deal with earthquake risk management technology in Mexico and the United States, environmental data justice in the US/Mexican borderlands, and the development and practice of engineering expertise.

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Susan M. Lord University of San Diego

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Susan M. Lord received a B.S. from Cornell University and the M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She is currently Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering at the University of San Diego. Her teaching and research interests include electronics, optoelectronics, materials science, first year engineering courses, feminist and liberative pedagogies, engineering student persistence, and student autonomy. Her research has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Lord is a fellow of the ASEE and IEEE and is active in the engineering education community including serving as General Co-Chair of the 2006 Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference, on the FIE Steering Committee, and as President of the IEEE Education Society for 2009-2010. She is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education and the Journal of Engineering Education. She and her coauthors were awarded the 2011 Wickenden Award for the best paper in the Journal of Engineering Education and the 2011 and 2015 Best Paper Awards for the IEEE Transactions on Education. In Spring 2012, Dr. Lord spent a sabbatical at Southeast University in Nanjing, China.

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There is a need for engineering students to be more fully engaged in the socio-technical facets of what it means to be a 21st century engineer. Traditionally, the engineering canon focuses solely on technical skills, but there is a growing industry demand for engineers who possess professional skills and global values. It is the larger goal of this work to empower student engineering changemakers through refinement of the engineering canon. It is also a goal of this work to develop content useful for other faculty so that incorporation into another's classroom, whether in part or in full, is not such an arduous and impossible task.

A series of modules have been developed for a third-year level Materials Science course, a segment of an NSF-funded REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (RED) grant. These modules gave 32 students from General, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering the opportunity to engage in collaboration with their peers through innovative classes in Fall 2017. Students were grouped in interdisciplinary teams in which they interact with material that communicated the importance of materials science in everyday life.

Several modules have been developed and are currently being implemented in Fall 2017 in Engineering Materials Science. These modules have been designed to creatively integrate social justice, humanitarian engagement, peace studies, and sustainability into the classroom while not forfeiting but complementing the required engineering technical skillsets. Four modules explore these topics through the following areas of interest: (1) materials classification in your trash and recycling, (2) material choice factors within bioengineering design for emerging markets with special consideration for user life expectancy and cost, (3) ethics of research for a novel 3D-printed material in innovative Diabetic shoe inserts, and (4) mechanical testing of innovative 3D-printed materials and traditional engineering materials. Each module is presented with its learning objectives, breakdown of materials required, artifacts developed, space set-up, assessment, lessons learned, and a detailed facilitator guide that can be integrated into any materials science course.

The first of these modules to be implemented required students to bring to class with them a week’s worth of their own trash. A portion of class time focused on the materials categorization and classification. Then, a class debrief directed students’ attention toward topics related to recycling in general and, more particularly, to responsibilities that engineers have to consider the whole lifecycle of their projects. This might include choosing materials suited to a product’s designed purpose and considering costs and required material properties and addressing where it might go after use. Students were prompted to provide the meaningful takeaways from class. In a reflection after class, one student said, “[W]e explored the reality of our consumer waste and how as engineers we could do something to change it.” By the conclusion of Fall 2017, all four modules will have been implemented, and outcomes will be evaluated in light of achieving the overall goal of redefining the engineering canon.

Przestrzelski, B., & Reddy, E. A., & Lord, S. M. (2018, June), Integrating Experiential with Technical: How Materials Science Modules Can Help Redefine the Traditional Engineering Canon Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30684

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