Asee peer logo

Using Hands On Laboratory Experiences To Underscore Concepts And To Create Excitement About Materials

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

NEW Lab Experiments in Materials Science

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1387.1 - 11.1387.15



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Kathleen Stair Northwestern University

visit author page

Kathleen Stair was awarded a B.S. in Engineering and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Northwestern University. She spent seven years as a Research Engineer with the Amoco Technology Company in Naperville, Illinois, where she was responsible for growth of GaAs-based materials using Molecular Beam Epitaxy. She has been a senior lecturer in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern since 1996, and is responsible for many of the undergraduate laboratories.

visit author page


Buckley Crist, Jr Jr, Northwestern University

visit author page

Buckley Crist was awarded B. A. and Ph. D. degrees in chemistry from Williams College and Duke University, respectively. His experience with polymers and other materials dates from six years spent at the Camille Dreyfus Laboratory at the Research Triangle Park. Crist has been at Northwestern for over thirty years, with joint appointments in the department of Materials Science and Engineering and the department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Research activities have focused on polymer solids and blends, reported in more than 100 publications.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Hands-On Laboratory Experiences to Underscore Concepts and to Create Excitement about Materials Abstract

It is universally acknowledged that laboratories and demonstrations add information and interest to science and engineering courses. Constraints are time, space and cost. We have developed a series of hands-on laboratories coordinated with our “Introduction to Principles and Properties of Materials” course, taken as a Basic Engineering elective by most of the engineering majors in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern. These activities are conducted in 50-minute weekly sessions with approximately 40 students in each section. Our objective is for students to handle materials and to make qualitative observations and quantitative measurements. The experiments described herein are easily and inexpensively duplicated, allowing individuals or small groups to work independently. We describe the following representative activities in detail: the observation of work hardening and recrystallization in copper tubing; measurement of temperature-dependent resistivities of metals and semiconductors; exploration of the glass transition in inorganic and organic materials; measurement of LED I-V curves with a simple circuit; and quantitative determination of the effect of surface flaws on the strength of glass.


Laboratory exercises provide a great opportunity to expose students to “real materials” in an active learning environment. Such exercises also provide a means to satisfy important learning objectives, such as the application of material discussed in lectures (“an ability to apply knowledge of math, science and engineering”) and the ability to conduct experiments, analyze and interpret data.1 We have developed a series of experiments which we believe meet these objectives and add an element of fun to the introductory materials course. These exercises were developed in the process of teaching, experimenting with materials, discussing the course with students and colleagues, and making many trips to the local hardware store and chemistry stockroom. We are certain that many of these activities are not unique to our curriculum, and we acknowledge inspiration from others using similar hands-on learning techniques, especially Professor Arthur Ellis and coworkers at the University of Madison2 and participants at the Materials Educators conferences.3 In this paper we document some of the experiments we have developed for use with relatively large classes.

The MSE 201 “Introduction to Principles and Properties of Materials” course has an enrollment of approximately 40 students in each of two sections taught in the fall, winter and spring quarters. This course satisfies a Basic Engineering requirement for most (approximately 75%) engineering undergraduates at Northwestern, and is taken by those majoring in Biomedical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Industrial and Mechanical engineering in addition to Materials Science and Engineering. A separate but similar course, MSE 301, is taught for Chemical and Biological Engineering majors once each year. Both classes use the current edition of “Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction” by William D. Callister.4 A draft of a new text by Y. W. Chung5 was used for the most recent sections of 201, taught during Winter Quarter of 2006.

Stair, K., & Crist, Jr, B. (2006, June), Using Hands On Laboratory Experiences To Underscore Concepts And To Create Excitement About Materials Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1282

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015