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Recruitment and Motivation of 1st Year Materials Students at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Prof Michel Rappaz | Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Recruitment and Motivation of 1st Year Materials Students at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

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The Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) curriculum of the Ecole Polytechnique F?d?rale de Lausanne (EPFL) was created in 1974, making it one of Europe's oldest of its kind. Until the end of the nineties, however, it was attended by a fairly low number of students. This has changed, largely as a result of a major promotion effort that was initiated over the past decade to promote the MSE field to secondary school students, a necessity at EPFL since incoming undergraduate students choose their department from the very start of their studies. Among the main initiatives that were undertaken, some were aimed at secondary school students directly, others were more indirect. Among the latter has been a seminar series for secondary school teachers of Physics and Chemistry presenting typical (and attractive) materials topics that the teachers can subsequently use in class, in turn introducing the discipline to their students. Other initiatives were directly aimed at secondary school students themselves; these have included: (i) coaching and an award for secondary school projects done on materials, (ii) a complete redesign of the EPFL materials teaching website to include attractive visual material on the use, importance and engineering of materials in everyday life, and (iii) the design and organisation of materials-focused temporary exhibits, one in a museum for children, another in the Olympic museum in Lausanne (which has, since, been shown elsewhere). At the same time, while making it 'Bologna-compatible', the EPFL MSE course program was remodelled with the creation of four orientations at the Master's level designed to bring out more clearly the usage and application of materials (following the concept of 'materials for?'). In parallel to these initiatives, the 1st year course 'Introduction to materials' was extended to all students of EPFL's School of Engineering (about 450). This course, which is heavily based on the latest book of M. Ashby et al. (Materials: Engineering science, processing and design), is taught twice every year, i.e., to Mechanics and Materials students during the Fall semester, and to Electricity and Microengineering students during the Spring semester. Besides the course and exercises, examples and movies together with small experiments are presented in class, as are Ashby materials property maps. This course helps motivating students for the field of materials and indirectly contributes to increasing the number of registered students in following years. Thanks to these multiple and sustained efforts, the number of 1st year MSE students at EPFL has increased from about 28 in 2001 to 77 in 2011. This presentation will give a rapid overview of these materials promotion initiatives taken at EPFL, and will present the current materials program offered to engineering students in general, focusing on the general 1st year course offering.