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Multimedia Virtual Laboratories For Introductory Materials Science Courses

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.396.1 - 4.396.6

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Paper Authors

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Rochelle Payne Ondracek

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

Session 2358

Multimedia Virtual Laboratories for Introductory Materials Science Courses

Rochelle Payne Ondracek University of Nebraska - Lincoln


"More real-world examples" is a frequent comment from students on course evaluations for an introductory materials science course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Since students who are exposed to actual case histories remember concepts better and are more enthusiastic, we are developing virtual laboratory multimedia modules using Macromedia Authorware. The goals of this project are to expose students to real-world problems and to give them an opportunity to build on their knowledge to solve these problems. In each module, students are introduced to a materials-oriented case history and encouraged to run materials laboratory tests to understand the underlying problem. Each module includes a database of test results on several standard tests for several materials. After choosing which tests are appropriate for the case study, students will get instant results and will be encouraged to re-evaluate their options until they determine the cause of the problem. This discovery process allows the student to understand materials science concepts and materials laboratory tests more thoroughly and to appreciate how they can be used in industrial situations. Students also have the option of reviewing important basic concepts and the laboratory tests within the modules if they wish.


"Elements of Materials Science and Engineering" is an introductory course in materials science at UNL. The course has been taught each semester for many years through the Mechanical Engineering Department. Although the course is primarily made up of junior-level mechanical engineering students (60-70%) who are required to take the course and accompanying laboratory, the class usually has several biological, chemical and industrial engineers who take the course as a technical elective. These non-mechanical engineering students are not required to take the laboratory part of the course and unfortunately, often find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding core materials concepts. The laboratory offers valuable hands-on experiences with concepts such as strength, hardness, fatigue, and techniques such as crystallography and x-ray diffraction, reinforcing many of the topics covered in class.

The disparity of understanding between students who take the laboratory and those who do not is apparent to students as well as the instructor. One recent end-of-semester survey had the following comment from a student, "Even though I study hard for exams, I sometimes found things seemed new to me. Seems like people with the lab did not have this problem." The

Ondracek, R. P. (1999, June), Multimedia Virtual Laboratories For Introductory Materials Science Courses Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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