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The Design Of Material World, An Internet Based Educational Environment

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.554.1 - 3.554.9

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Paper Authors

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Stephen R. McNeill

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Jed S. Lyons

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

Session 1358

The Design of Material World, an Internet-Based Educational Environment

Jed S. Lyons and Stephen R. McNeill Department of Mechanical Engineering University of South Carolina Columbia, SC 29208

1. ABSTRACT Engineers need a solid understanding of the relationships between material processing, properties and structures to make informed material selection decisions for design applications. Hands-on laboratories help students develop this understanding. However, time constraints, equipment costs and safety concerns severely limit the amount of true experimentation that is performed. A bold initiative is underway at the University of South Carolina to develop Material World, an expandable internet-based virtual environment where students make, break and look at metals, polymers, composites and ceramics. Material World will be based on realistic interactive animations, but includes video clips, sound, photographs and text. In it, students will be able to set processing and testing equipment operating conditions in almost any way they want.

Material World will be a powerful complement to lectures and real-time laboratory courses. Assignments in the Material World will be open-ended, such as to make materials with some optimum property or set of performance characteristics. By letting students determine for themselves how processing conditions affect material behavior, Material World will enable them to use scientific inquiry as an integral part of the learning process. This paper describes the concept, technological hurdles, and implementation plan for Material World within the context of other state-of-the-art courseware being delivered on the Internet.

2. INTRODUCTION 2.1. Laboratory Experiences Virtually all U.S. degree programs in Mechanical Engineering include a course on Engineering Materials. These courses often include hands-on laboratory experiments (e.g., the University of South Carolina’s EMCH 371). There is no substitute for the knowledge students can gain by physically touching the materials and using the equipment. However, time constraints severely limit the amount of true experimentation that students can perform in EMCH 371 and most other traditional, real-time, laboratory courses. For example, in a precipitation hardening experiment, students may be given samples of a particular alloy and a predetermined heat treatment procedure so that they can get “good” results during the 2-3 hour laboratory period. There is simply not enough time for students to play the “what would happen if I did this” game and really explore processing-property relationships. Another problem with hands-on experiments relates to equipment costs and safety concerns which may reduce some experiment sessions to little more than ten students in a room watching the back of an instructor as the experiment is performed. In large service-type courses and distance education courses, there is usually no laboratory component at all.

McNeill, S. R., & Lyons, J. S. (1998, June), The Design Of Material World, An Internet Based Educational Environment Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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