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Undergraduate Research in a Materials Independent Study at a Small College: From Building Modern Fabrication Equipment to Experimental Testing

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 2

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Tristan M. Ericson York College of Pennsylvania

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Dr. Tristan Ericson joined the faculty at York College of Pennsylvania as an Assistant Professor in 2013. Prior to this appointment, he was a Visiting Professor at Bucknell University. His teaching interests include solid mechanics, vibrations, materials science, and MATLAB. He also advises the YC Racing FormulaSAE team. His technical research interests include vibrations of planetary gear systems, strengthening 3D printed materials, and making things go faster. He enjoys activities that promote STEM fields in local high schools. He received his PhD from Ohio State University in 2012.

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Stephen N. Kuchnicki York College of Pennsylvania

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Dr. Stephen Kuchnicki has been an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at York College of Pennsylvania since January 2008. Previously, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Rutgers University, specializing in computational modeling of dynamic deformations in solids. His areas of technical expertise include solid mechanics, crystal plasticity, vibration, and fluid-structure interaction. He received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 2001.

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The number of advanced engineering electives at smaller programs is often limited. When a group of [school name] mechanical engineering juniors took our curriculum-standard Materials Science course in 2016, there was sufficient interest among several students to consider offering an advanced topics course. Rather than create an advanced course for limited enrollment, faculty and students developed an independent study focused on designing/building fabrication equipment and testing the material properties of specimens produced by these machines. Four students designed and built a 3D printer and a thermoforming machine. These machines were used to create tensile test specimens to analyze (1) material degradation due to aqueous environment exposure, (2) effect of raster and print orientation, (3) strengthening by epoxy impregnation, and (4) strength as a function of orientation in thermoformed materials. The independent study spanned two semesters for six total credits. The first semester focused on designing and building the machines, and the second semester was dedicated to fabricating and testing material specimens. Experimental results reveal several interesting conclusions among the four focus areas. The overall experience of pursuing the independent study over developing an advanced course was quite positive. It was important to have interested and dedicated students on this project, which was ultimately fairly time-consuming. It was also essential to extend the work across two semesters to successfully complete all phases of the project: design, build, create specimens, test, and analyze data.

Ericson, T. M., & Kuchnicki, S. N. (2018, June), Undergraduate Research in a Materials Independent Study at a Small College: From Building Modern Fabrication Equipment to Experimental Testing Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31168

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