considerably from the standard general chemistry ones in that their aim is not to complete a set of prescribed tasks, but rather to use a limited set of resources (chemical relationships, charts, websites, experimental setups, etc.) to accomplish one or two specific goals. Often the goal is simply to identify an unknown compound or composition, and the students have the freedom to solve the problem however they choose to do so. In the end, students come away with a much more thorough understanding of what they did and why it worked (or why it did not) because they have to be responsible for deciding on their specific path towards the goal and must engage the material to evaluate their choices. They learn very quickly the value of advanced planning based on accurate conceptual knowledge.
Integration of Engineering and Chemistry
The interaction of engineering and chemistry is used to motivate the student. A deliberate attempt is made to have one integrated course rather than two individual 2-credit courses stitched together. For example, the chemist first teaches about the crystalline structure of metallic solids, and then the engineering application is shown when the engineer subsequently teaches about slip planes and fracture mechanics. Phase diagram concepts are pulled in from the traditional chemistry course, but the emphasis is shifted to solid solutions in order to correlate with the materials science study of metallic solutions. Acid-base equilibrium is covered from the traditional chemistry course, and those topics are used to build a foundation for looking at half- cell potentials and corrosion.
The chemistry topics are taught in close conjunction with specific technologies in order to appeal to engineering students who typically need to see why certain knowledge is valuable. Solid state chemistry proves to be difficult for students as they try to conceptualize three-dimensional structures for the first time. Unfortunately, many of the standard examples (NaCl, ZnS, etc.), if simple, lack relevance for the students. More technologically interesting materials are generally too complex. For this course we try to elevate interest in atomic arrangements and crystallographic descriptions by teaching it within the context of semiconductors and LED technology. In the lab the students move from solid state modeling of semiconductor materials, to using diffraction to measure the wavelength of light from a range of LED's, to finally designing appropriate compositions of gallium based semiconductors for use in stoplights.
Equilibrium chemistry is another topic that often challenges the students. In this course, the focus is shifted from esoteric knowledge to the chemistry of automobile (engine and exhaust), explosion chemistry, and the Haber-Bosch process. These provide concrete and interesting examples to the students of how the chemical concepts of equilibrium are essential to producing useful technologies.
The focus of the materials science is on using materials in engineering design. Students are challenged to look at how material properties arise from the chemistry and processing of materials. The course includes a design project on injection molding of a car door panel. From the project they learn how to do an engineering design project (currently we have three projects, and plan to have five, distributed to the five engineering courses of the first two years) and how material selection and processing conditions influence product properties and cost. Students have a choice of four polymers and three fillers. They can choose a neat polymer, a blend of two
Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education