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Teaching Materials Science Labs Online Asynchronously

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Hybrid and Online Learning

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Surendra K. Gupta Rochester Institute of Technology (COE)

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“Vinnie” Gupta is a professor of mechanical engineering, and a member of the graduate faculty of materials science and engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Rochester, NY. He is a recipient of the 2014 Robert G. Quinn Award from ASEE, and the 2000 Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching. At RIT, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in applied mechanics, computational techniques, and materials science.

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After an eight year hiatus, I was asked suddenly to teach eight sections, each consisting of twelve students, of the Materials Science Lab course (306) in fall 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic. During the past eight years, my instructional materials for 306 had been adopted by other instructors who left online quizzes and online surveys unchanged, and made modest changes to my presentation slides, and lab report templates and formats.

In fall 2020, faculty at my university chose their own modality of instruction – in-person, online or a hybrid mode. I chose asynchronous instead of synchronous because of issues related to the large number of lab sections, and the unpredictability of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In spring 2021, I am teaching ten sections of this lab course. I have made significant improvements to my instructional materials from the fall semester that are included in this paper.

I wanted to give my students a lab experience that would be equal to or better than the traditional in-person experience prior to the pandemic. In most traditional in-person experiments, students measure physical dimensions such as thickness, width and diameter at various length scales using instruments such as an ordinary rulers, a Vernier caliper, or a micrometer. To implement similar measurements online, I decided to integrate image analysis using FijI based on ImageJ software, and use it as a video caliper tool to measure features in ordinary and high resolution images.

Traditionally, 306 and courses similar to it at other universities to focus almost exclusively on experimental techniques to measure properties and characterize materials. In restructuring the course, I decided to add comparable emphasis on structure and processing of materials as it relates to testing and characterization of metallic materials.

This paper describes the first three of the seven experiments that were developed focusing on: (1) Introductory Image Analysis and Brinell hardness testing, (2) Strengthening Mechanisms and tensile testing, and (3) Cold working and Rockwell hardness testing. In each experiment, students are instructed in theory, principles, and methods using a YouTube video of narrated slides and board work, and laboratory demonstration. They are given images and data from the experiment, and data and report templates. Students make their own measurements using FijI, perform data analysis using Excel, and submit a concise lab report with critical evaluation of results and summary conclusions.

The paper includes the course schedule listing the topics for each lab, grading policy, objectives for the first lab, and supporting instructional elements including the lab report grading rubric and sample quiz questions. It also includes the survey collected after each lab, and response statistics from the first lab. Actions taken in response to the student feedback are also included.

Gupta, S. K. (2021, July), Teaching Materials Science Labs Online Asynchronously Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37815

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