Integrating experimental studies into a senior level course: Smart materials and structures

Ping Zhao, Hongyan Liu, Puttagounder Dhanasekaran Swaminathan

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Smart Materials and Structures is a senior level technical elective course for undergraduates in which three types of smart materials are introduced, including piezoelectric materials, shape memory alloys, and magnetostrictive materials. The involved techniques to study these materials are pioneer in the field of materials science and engineering and most of them are still in the research stage. For most students, realizing these advanced materials and technology is their first time. Therefore, it is a challenge to for students to understand the course material in depth. In order to overcome this challenge, experimental studies are introduced as part of the course through an active learning platform. Overall, four labs are designed and conducted to investigate the properties and performance of piezoelectric materials and shape memory alloys. The outcome of the experimental studies is evaluated by written reports consisting of learning objectives, experimental methods, results, and discussions. These lab sessions significantly enrich the course material and provide students an active learning environment where they can apply the fundamental principles for problem solving while interacting with other students and instructors. The students also gain hands-on experience in the process of preparation and operation of these labs. The impact of experimental studies on student learning outcomes is assessed based on the lab reports and anonymous questionnaires. The results indicate that this approach is effective for enhancing the students' motivation, understanding of the course materials, and learning outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 23 2018
Event125th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2018Dec 27 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Society for Engineering Education, 2018.


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