Exploration and Innovation in Creative Material Education
Materials play a broad role in modern life yet with few exceptions, the only significant formal education of materials is available in specialized post-secondary educational programs. Furthermore, even where available, students enrolled outside of engineering or technical programs may find limited opportunities to study materials, or they may be hesitant to enroll in a materials course because they feel intimidated by the potential technical analysis and explanations. As a result, in many institutions, schools outside of engineering colleges (design, architecture, business, fine arts etc.) often resort to offering their students a "light" coverage of materials from the perspective of their own discipline.
We propose that there are limits to this approach. First, in everyday living, people encounter and solve engineering and even material application problems continuously, even sub-consciously, and therefore, much of the basic material engineering can be taught to students at a level that does not necessarily screen them based on their scientific or mathematical abilities. Second, students that are in disciplines that engage some level of material understanding also represent a population that is creative and unbounded by preconceived (or taught) constraints and therefore can envision different applications, demands, and designs for materials.
This work introduces the current effort of a collaboration aiming to assemble course components that provide materials knowledge and materials engineering concepts to students in disciplines outside of engineering. While some of the materials and engineering curriculum is taught in a lecture format; studio work is where students connect closely with the materials and properties. In the studio work, students first replicate an existing material with the limited resources and knowledge they have, learning about the material, processing, and properties (explore). Once completed, students are then asked to design a new material using their gained knowledge (innovate). Success is measured by gauging experimental breadth and innovative effort. This paper will report on the course design considerations and the results of courses introduced at the Universidad de los Andes from the Design Department, and at Carnegie Mellon University from the Materials Science Department.
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