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Using Internet Sources To Solve Materials Homework Assignments

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Materials Education Perspectives

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1342.1 - 13.1342.8



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Paper Authors


Barry Dupen Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne

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Dr. Dupen worked for 9 years in the automotive industry as a metallurgist, materials engineer, and laboratory manager. For the past 5 years, he has taught Mechanical Engineering Technology at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). His primary interests are in materials engineering, mechanics, contra dancing, and engineering technology education.

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

Using Internet Sources to Solve Materials Homework Assignments


Materials professors commonly ask homework questions derived from textbook readings, only to have students find the answers faster using internet resources such as Wikipedia or Google™. While we hope students will actually read their textbooks, we can take advantage of student internet use to teach materials concepts. After graduation, these engineers will use the internet as a resource in their jobs, so it makes sense to use the internet in classroom exercises too. This paper discusses several materials homework assignments requiring internet research, and a few which require the textbook. Students learn that some answers are very difficult to find, and that accuracy is not guaranteed. Students also learn how materials data affect design, economics, and public policy.


I teach a second-semester freshman materials class for Mechanical Engineering Technology students, using the first half of Kalpakjian & Schmid’s Manufacturing Engineering and Technologyi (the second half of the book is covered in a subsequent materials course). The course covers the basics of materials structure/property relationships, materials testing, and materials processing. Because I teach at a branch campus of Purdue University, the class is populated by a mixture of full-time traditional-age students who may work part-time jobs, and part-time older students who work full-time jobs. I assign weekly homework problems to assess students’ understanding of the lecture, labs, and readings from the textbook. While students older than 30 generally find solutions in the textbook, their younger classmates are more apt to seek answers on the internet because it is quicker. I wanted to encourage this activity, because in my experience as a materials engineer in the automotive industry, I routinely used both the internet and traditional handbooks to solve materials problems. Therefore, I changed the nature of about a third of the homework questions to encourage students to learn from the internet, and in other cases, I designed problems which could only be solved by reading the textbook.

As the semester progressed, I rated the questions based on students’ success at finding correct and meaningful answers on the internet. Student success ranged from low to medium to high. When I returned the graded assignments, we discussed the solutions in class, then discussed the broader meaning of these solutions and their context in engineering and society, using approaches recommended by McKeachie.ii These discussions satisfies ABET criterion “j” (knowledge of contemporary professional, societal, and global issues), while the internet research satisfies ABET criterion “h” (lifelong learning). What follows is a selection of internet questions from the course, along with class discussion topics.

Dupen, B. (2008, June), Using Internet Sources To Solve Materials Homework Assignments Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3091

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