Asee peer logo

Teaching Smart Materials To Engineering Undergraduate Students: A Problem Solving Approach

Download Paper |


2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 8: Materials, MEMS, and Nano

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1195.1 - 9.1195.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Mohammad Elahinia

Download Paper |

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

Session 3566

Teaching Smart Materials to Engineering Undergraduate Students: A Problem Solving Approach Mohammad H. Elahinia

Mechanical Engineering Department Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA 24061

Summary and Introduction

This paper describes a problem solving approach for teaching the subject of smart materials to Mechanical Engineering undergraduate students. An experiment with a Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) actuated robotic arm is designed for the senior undergraduate laboratory (ME4006) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech. ME4006 is designed to provide the students with experience in experimental investigation of mechanical engineering systems. In designing the SMA- actuated robot experiment it was intended for the students to have a hands-on experiment with Shape Memory Alloys. Furthermore, students learn about sensing and actuation advantages of the SMAs along with their control problems and limitations. The problem is described in a memorandum to the students from a supervisor, who defines the purpose of the problem and defines the audience for the report. Students are not given a procedure to follow for conducting the experiment. In the lab, they design the experiment procedure based on their engineering judgments. Students are introduced to this problem by two lectures which are followed by two sessions of lab time. After performing the experiment the students, working in teams of five, present their results to an audience of faculty, graduate teaching assistants, and two other student teams.

In the case of the SMA-actuated robot, the lecture covers some background on SMAs as well as introducing different applications of these materials. In the memorandum the system is introduced as a prototype robot that will be installed on a mobile platform. The purpose of the mobile robot is to deploy sensors in a hostile environment. Students, as employees of the company, are asked to test the SMA- actuated robot for two main goals. The first goal is to choose appropriate PID controller gains such that the robot meets certain criteria in deploying the sensors. The choice of controller gains is also limited by the energy available to the system. The second goal is to investigate the possibility of using the SMA wire as a sensor. Currently, the robot uses an encoder for position feedback. The intent of this second objective is to determine if a relationship between the resistance of the wire and the position of the robot can be used to replace the encoder. The purpose of this paper is to show the effectiveness of a problem solving approach in teaching smart materials to undergraduate engineering student. Lectures, laboratory experiments, and presentations are three essential parts of this approach; together they greatly enhance the learning process.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright 2004 ©, American Society for Engineering Education

Elahinia, M. (2004, June), Teaching Smart Materials To Engineering Undergraduate Students: A Problem Solving Approach Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13746

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2004 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015