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Integrating Experimental Studies into a Senior Level Course: Smart Materials and Structures

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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 2

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Paper Authors


Ping Zhao University of Minnesota Duluth

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Dr. Ping Zhao is currently an Associate Professor at Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in University of Minnesota Duluth. Her research focuses on smart materials and devices, advanced materials and composites, and Micro/nanomechanics, etc.

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Hongyan Liu Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Hongyan Liu obtained her Ph. D degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University with a focus in structural engineering in August 2010. Her graduate education was focused on the performance based engineering for structural systems under hazard loading, and application of innovative construction materials (fiber reinforced concrete) for underground construction. Her Ph.D. dissertation was focused on developing generalized performance-based seismic design procedures for residential buildings with a simplified format to be implemented by practice engineers. Her M.S. research was focused on performance of underground tunnel lining made from steel fiber reinforced shotcrete material. Dr. Liu is experienced in teaching structural engineering related courses and has held multiple positions as instructor at a number of engineering programs.

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PS Dhanasekaran University of Minnesota Duluth

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Dr PS Dhanasekaran, (Puttagounder Dhanasekaran Swaminathan) has PhD degree in mechanical engineering from Wichita State University, Wichita, KS. He is currently working as an assistant professor, at University of Minnesota, Duluth. He has taught, CAD/CAM, FEA, Machine design, Statics, Strength of Materials, and various courses on materials and materials selection, for both undergraduate and graduate programs. He also authored and co-authored a text book chapter and research papers on machining of composites. He has a diverse industrial experience for 27 years, in design, research and manufacturing of electro mechanical systems, such as design of various types of gear and gear boxes, antennas and light and heavy fabricated structures, for communication, TV telecast, natural disasters management and Telemedicine application. Dr PS, designed and manufactured various types of antenna’s weighing from 200 pounds to 100,000 pounds. He was also actively involved in configuring the antenna controls and selection of motor and motor controllers. Dr PS, has advised more than 40 senior/capstone projects. One of his project won the national award from Airforce Research Laboratory in spring 2017. Project was on “Design of the Load Carrying Vehicle (LCV)”- The project solution is a fully electric, autonomous, all terrain, load carrying vehicle.

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Smart Materials and Structures is a senior level technical elective course for undergraduates, in which three types of smart materials were introduced, including piezoelectric materials, shape memory alloys, and magnetostrictive materials. In addition to the introduction of basic properties of these smart materials, an active vibration and motion control systems that utilize these materials were also included. The involved techniques to study these materials are pioneer in the field of materials science and engineering and most of them are still in the research stage. For most students, realizing these advanced materials and technology is the first time. Therefore, it is a challenge to for students to understand the course materials in depth. In order to overcome this challenge, experimental studies were introduced as part of the course through an active learning platform. Multiple labs designed to reinforce the fundamental concepts and principles of piezoelectric materials. Lead zirconate titanate (PZT) ceramics were used for the experiments, due to its strong piezoelectric effect and low cost. First two labs, including measurement of the hysteresis loop of polarization vs. electric field using a modified Sawyer-Tower circuit and determination of electro-mechanical behavior of PZT, intended to cover fundamental concepts that emphasize on piezoelectric properties. Third experiment was performed primarily focusing on the fabrication of a piezoelectric actuator to activate a cantilever beam, which provided an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and skills learned in the class to solve a practical problem. In addition to the study of piezoelectric material, phase transformation of a shape memory alloy due to the change in temperature was also observed. The students were required to carry out these labs in a group of four to five members. The outcome of the experimental studies was evaluated by written reports, which includes learning objective, experimental methods, results, and discussions. These lab sessions enriched the course materials and provided students an active learning environment, where they could relate fundamental knowledge for problem solving while interacting with other students and an instructor. The students also gained hands-on experience in the process of preparation and operation of these labs. The impact of experimental studies on student learning outcomes was assessed based on the lab reports and anonymous questionnaires.

Zhao, P., & Liu, H., & Dhanasekaran, P. (2018, June), Integrating Experimental Studies into a Senior Level Course: Smart Materials and Structures Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30685

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