There is a need for engineering students to be more fully engaged in the socio-technical facets of what it means to be a 21st century engineer. Traditionally, the engineering canon focuses solely on technical skills, but there is a growing industry demand for engineers who possess professional skills and global values. It is the larger goal of this work to empower student engineering changemakers through refinement of the engineering canon. It is also a goal of this work to develop content useful for other faculty so that incorporation into another's classroom, whether in part or in full, is not such an arduous and impossible task.
A series of modules have been developed for a third-year level Materials Science course, a segment of an NSF-funded REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (RED) grant. These modules gave 32 students from General, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering the opportunity to engage in collaboration with their peers through innovative classes in Fall 2017. Students were grouped in interdisciplinary teams in which they interact with material that communicated the importance of materials science in everyday life.
Several modules have been developed and are currently being implemented in Fall 2017 in Engineering Materials Science. These modules have been designed to creatively integrate social justice, humanitarian engagement, peace studies, and sustainability into the classroom while not forfeiting but complementing the required engineering technical skillsets. Four modules explore these topics through the following areas of interest: (1) materials classification in your trash and recycling, (2) material choice factors within bioengineering design for emerging markets with special consideration for user life expectancy and cost, (3) ethics of research for a novel 3D-printed material in innovative Diabetic shoe inserts, and (4) mechanical testing of innovative 3D-printed materials and traditional engineering materials. Each module is presented with its learning objectives, breakdown of materials required, artifacts developed, space set-up, assessment, lessons learned, and a detailed facilitator guide that can be integrated into any materials science course.
The first of these modules to be implemented required students to bring to class with them a week’s worth of their own trash. A portion of class time focused on the materials categorization and classification. Then, a class debrief directed students’ attention toward topics related to recycling in general and, more particularly, to responsibilities that engineers have to consider the whole lifecycle of their projects. This might include choosing materials suited to a product’s designed purpose and considering costs and required material properties and addressing where it might go after use. Students were prompted to provide the meaningful takeaways from class. In a reflection after class, one student said, “[W]e explored the reality of our consumer waste and how as engineers we could do something to change it.” By the conclusion of Fall 2017, all four modules will have been implemented, and outcomes will be evaluated in light of achieving the overall goal of redefining the engineering canon.
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