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Travelogue From The Materials World: A First Week Laboratory Activity

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Creative Ways to Present Basic Materials

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1322.1 - 9.1322.9



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Paper Authors

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Tim Orling

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Lisa Christensen

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Blair London

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Linda Vanasupa

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Katherine Chen

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

Session number 3664

Travelogue from the Materials World: A first week laboratory activity

Katherine C. Chen, Blair London, Linda Vanasupa, Timothy T. Orling, and Lisa Christensen

Materials Engineering Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA


A fun, yet educational, laboratory activity was developed for the first week of an introductory Materials Engineering laboratory in order to set the stage for the rest of the quarter. The class is broken up into 8 teams, and each team performs a different experiment during each lab period. The teams then rotate lab experiments each week in a round robin manner, and thus teamwork is an important component of the class. In order to quickly promote team bonding the very first week, each team goes on a materials scavenger hunt together. A variety of materials-related items are to be found around the campus, and various questions must be answered for each item. In addition, each scavenger hunt item is photographed with a Polaroid I-zone camera that produces sticker pictures. While the students work together, they are also being exposed to several materials engineering concepts (many of which will be covered in the lab). The students realize the impact of materials in their daily lives and in the world around them through this activity. The relatively inexpensive lab activity can be easily modified to suit the needs of different instructors. The assignment, procedures, and assessment of the lab activity will be discussed.


An introduction to Materials Engineering Laboratory (MATE 215) at the California Polytechnic State University (“Cal Poly”), San Luis Obispo, is designed to accompany the lecture portion of Materials Engineering (MATE 210). Roughly 12 sections of the lab are offered each quarter, and thus about a total of 750 students take the course every year. Many students from the College of Engineering are required to take the lab as a support course.

The lab embodies the Cal Poly philosophy to “learn by doing,” and offers eight separate, 3-hour lab experiments on different topics in materials engineering (e.g., crystal structures, heat treating of steels, tensile testing of polymers). The course runs for 10 weeks, and the class is broken up into teams of three students. Each team does a different lab each week, and then each subsequent week, the labs rotate around until completion of all 8 labs. The teams of students are

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

Orling, T., & Christensen, L., & London, B., & Vanasupa, L., & Chen, K. (2004, June), Travelogue From The Materials World: A First Week Laboratory Activity Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13826

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