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Introductory Material Science: A Solid Modeling Approach

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Integrating Materials and Manufacturing

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.836.1 - 10.836.10



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Paper Authors

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Gerald Sullivan

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

Introductory Material Science: A Solid Modeling Approach

Gerald Sullivan Department of Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Military Institute


As a means to enhance students’ abilities to visualize the three dimensional structure of materials, solid model based exercises have been integrated into the introductory materials science curriculum at the Virginia Military Institute. The exercises included exploration oriented tasks, where students used the viewing functions of the solid modeling environment to examine models of materials, as well as problems where students constructed their own models of materials. The intent of the exercises was to allow students to obtain a deeper understanding of the three dimensional structure of materials, while at the same time reinforcing their solid modeling skills. This paper reviews the exercises developed to complement the materials curriculum, and describes the lessons learned in this first attempt at applying solid modeling as a visualization tool for material science education.

1. Introduction

Material science is an extremely diverse body of knowledge, comprised of concepts ranging from quantum level interactions between atoms, to explanations of the effects of industrial processes on material properties. Central to the understanding of these concepts is the ability to visualize and reason about the somewhat abstract three-dimensional arrangements of atoms that make up the structure of materials, (e.g. crystal solids, amorphous solids and polymer chains). In many cases students taking their first material science course do not have adequate 3-D visualization skills [1], and are unable to develop a deep understanding of the principles responsible for the behavior of engineering materials. As a means to supplant weak visualization skills and improve comprehension of material science concepts, the mechanical engineering department at the Virginia Military Institute has incorporated solid modeling exercises into the material science curriculum. The intent of these solid modeling exercises is to help students interactively explore the crystal structures that make up metallic substances, in an environment that amplifies the students’ abilities to operate in an abstract 3 dimensional landscape. In addition to supporting the material science curriculum, the inclusion of solid modeling exercises in the materials science class also supports the equally important goal of improving students’ long-term retention of solid modeling skills. In the paper that follows, a description of the current material science program at VMI is given, along with a summary of characteristic problem areas for student comprehension in material science. Goals for the incorporation of solid modeling tools with the materials science course are reviewed, and descriptions of solid modeling exercises are detailed. Lastly, student reactions to the new teaching approach are discussed, as well as future plans for using solid modeling in the materials course.

Sullivan, G. (2005, June), Introductory Material Science: A Solid Modeling Approach Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15368

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