Materials and Mechanics: A Multidisciplinary Course Incorporating Experiential, Project/Problem-Based, and Work-Integrated Learning Approaches for Undergraduates

Materials and Mechanics: A Multidisciplinary Course Incorporating Experiential, Project/Problem-Based, and Work-Integrated Learning Approaches for Undergraduates

Kyle G. Gipson, Robert J. Prins
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8183-5.ch012
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The Madison Engineering Department is an undergraduate non-discipline specific engineering program at James Madison University. The program acknowledges that future engineers should not be constrained by disciplinary boundaries but demonstrate the ability to adapt and work across disciplines within team atmospheres. The program blends engineering science fundamentals with sustainable design to integrate environmental, social, economic, and technical contexts plus systems thinking while maintaining the university-wide liberal arts core. Madison Engineering is dedicated to the development of engineering versatilists who can readily integrate knowledge from historically different fields of engineering. In support of this development, several courses within the curriculum integrate topics that are traditionally taught separately. This chapter described ENGR 314: Materials & Mechanics, a course that integrates concepts from the traditional content of stand-alone courses (materials science and mechanics of materials) via a semester long design project in which students must incorporate knowledge of both sets of content.
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James Madison University is a public regional university located in Harrisonburg, Virginia (USA), within the Shenandoah Valley. James Madison University has a total enrollment of approximately 20,000 students across all of its seven colleges with approximately 1,700 of those students enrolled in a graduate program. The College of Integrated Science and Engineering (CISE) was established in 2012 when the departments of Integrated Science and Technology and Computer Science merged with the School of Engineering. After the creation of CISE, the School of Engineering now exists as the Department of Engineering (Madison Engineering).

Madison Engineering was founded in 2005 with the first cohort of students starting in fall of 2008. The program was designed based on the following description of the Engineer of 2020 by the National Academy of Engineering: one who possesses strong analytical skills, strong communication skills, and a strong sense of professionalism, creativity, and versatility (National Academy of Engineering, 2004; 2005). Since the founding of the program, Madison Engineering has graduated three classes of students. The alumni from this program have the opportunity to become “engineering versatilists” through the learning approaches that are utilized throughout the department and within individual courses. The term Engineering versatilist is a phrase invented by Garner, Inc. and popularized by Friedman that described an individual who can “apply depth of skill to a progressively widening scope of situations and experiences, gaining new competences, building relationships, and assuming new roles” (Friedman, 2005, p. 291).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Engineering Versatilist: An individual that can readily integrate knowledge from historically different fields of engineering for the creation of viable solutions.

Project-Based Learning: Pedagogy based on utilizing realistic and thought-provoking problem solving exercises to produce prescribed deliverables.

Signature Design Project: A complex, open-ended, group based project for a long duration with various components and multiple deliverables.

Materials Science Tetrahedron: The traditional paradigm of materials science studies through understanding the structure, processing, properties and performance characteristics of materials.

Problem-Based Learning: Pedagogy based on tailoring educational experiences within three dimensions (structure, complexity, group structure) that focuses on problem-management.

Systems Thinking: An approach to understanding the interconnectedness of components when grouped together in order to solve a problem and how the grouped components behave under different stimuli.

Work-Integrated Learning: The integration of workplace experience, theory and experiential practice within academic learning environments.

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