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The Continuing Saga of Using Heavy Metal Music to Promote Technological and Socio-cultural Understanding: Current Issues and an Honors Section

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Engineering Literacy: Champions of Engineering in General Education

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

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Paper Authors


Brian P Kirkmeyer Miami University

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Brian Kirkmeyer is the Karen Buchwald Wright Senior Assistant Dean for Student Success and Instructor in the College of Engineering and Computing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His background includes BS, MS and PhD degrees in Materials Science and Engineering (specialization in polymers), the former from Purdue University and the latter two from the University of Pennsylvania. He has work experiences in automotive electronics (Delphi Automotive Systems) and consumer products (International Flavors and Fragrances) prior to his current role. He has served on the executive committee of the ASEE Women in Engineering division since 2010, and recently became the Delegate for LGBTQ Inclusion on the ASEE Diversity Committee.

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The Continuing Saga of Using Heavy Metal Music to Promote Technological and Socio-cultural Understanding: Current Issues and an Honors Section

Heavy metal continues to be one of the most misinterpreted musical genres in existence, while also remaining one of the most intelligent, insightful and technologically-rich genres. Heavy metal’s history has facilitated multiple engineering developments in its quest for extremity as well as containing a wealth of commentary about global, social, religious, and political cultures. The original presentation in 2013 addressed the implementation of a course to help students explore these engineering developments and social commentary, with an ultimate goal to promote understanding of the interplay between the technologies and cultural phenomena. The current paper will expand on that premise with more recent developments in the engineering/music crossover, as well as discuss the creation of an honors section of the course.

In review, the class utilizes heavy metal’s influences and history to examine where culture and music collide. It then goes further to study the music’s need relationship with progress in engineering and design. Obvious engineering disciplines used in music creation include materials science, electronics, mechanics, and manufacturing pertaining to instrument and equipment design. Recent developments in the sourcing of tone woods, as a result of environmental factors and sustainable farming, have had a major impact on instrument manufacturers. The inability to acquire traditional materials in the amounts required or at the price points of the past have challenged these companies significantly. In addition, newer technologies like 3D printing and advanced computer methods have begun to change the game for creating and distributing music. Both of these topics and others continue to allow the instructor to relate the music-related issues to the bigger picture of engineering and technology in general society.

In response to both the growing interest in the course among high-ability students and the needs of the host university, an Honors section was created and approved. This new offering enhances the experience of these students by requiring the completion of a guitar design project. Starting with basic guitar parts, student teams must identify musical goals for their guitar, and then design, select, and create their instrument on their own. The project culminates in a demonstration of a working electric guitar, and the submission of a report on the engineering design process that they followed. The student response in Year One was extremely positive, and allowed students to experience real-world challenges that engineers face every day. This Honors project is currently in its second year, and data on both years will be collected and presented.

Kirkmeyer, B. P. (2017, June), The Continuing Saga of Using Heavy Metal Music to Promote Technological and Socio-cultural Understanding: Current Issues and an Honors Section Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28950

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