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Undergraduate Labs In Applied Polymer Science A Case Study

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1220.1 - 7.1220.6



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Paper Authors

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Robert Kimmel

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Main Menu Session number 1526

Undergraduate Labs in Applied Polymer Science – A Case Study

Robert M. Kimmel Dept. of Packaging Science, Clemson University

Abstract Undergraduates majoring in Packaging Science at Clemson University are required to take a combined lecture/laboratory course in Application of Polymers in Packaging in their junior or senior year. Over four semesters, the focus of the laboratory portion of the course has been transitioned from polymer processing to understanding basic process-structure-property relationships in polymers. Using new thermal analysis equipment funded by an NSF CCLI grant, students working cooperatively in small teams have been engaged in series of laboratory exercises from which they are required to formulate hypotheses and conclusions to relate observed properties to process variables by understanding the molecular structural changes that have occurred. The grant has also enabled each of the experimental laboratories to be updated and synchronized with the classroom lessons. Using student surveys and semester-to-semester comparisons of performance on specific final exam questions, the grant team has found that student motivation, involvement and achievement are enhanced by coordinated timing of classroom and lab topics, structured three-member lab teams and apparently simple experiments that challenge the students to work cooperatively in their teams to find scientifically valid explanations for their data.

Background The Packaging Science program at Clemson University is currently the only program in the Southeast, and one of only four in the United States, that offers a four-year curriculum leading to a B.S. degree in Packaging Science. It stresses the scientific and technological aspects of packaging. Requirements for graduation include biology, chemistry, physics, polymer science, mathematics, graphics, statistics and microbiology, in addition to basic humanities and social sciences. There are 13 core packaging courses, four of which are taught as laboratories. Each of these three lab courses is accompanied by a lecture for which the students must register separately. Several of the other courses are taught as lab/lecture combinations. All students must also complete a 15- to 24-week co-op assignment in industry as a requirement for graduation.

In March 2001, a group of three Packaging Science faculty received an NSF CCLI grant to adapt materials characterization techniques to collaborative, discovery-based learning in the undergraduate Packaging Science curriculum. The major objectives of this project are: · To incorporate more science-based learning in our Packaging Science laboratory courses · To significantly increase the understanding and hands-on experience of our undergraduate students with state-of-the-art materials science characterization and investigative techniques as applied to Packaging Science · To redesign our laboratory courses to maximize collaborative, discovery-based learning. These funds enabled the purchase of thermal analysis equipment, including modules for DSC (Differential Scanning Calorimetry) and TMA (Thermal Mechanical Analysis). The author and his colleagues in the Packaging Science Department decided to focus the initial efforts of the project on the core curriculum course, Application of Polymers in Packaging,

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Kimmel, R. (2002, June), Undergraduate Labs In Applied Polymer Science A Case Study Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11153

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