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Increasing levels of ability in Materials Engineering

Prof Andy Horsewell | DTU, Denmark

Increasing levels of ability in Materials Engineering

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Engineers must learn to analyze problems, evaluate materials / processes and create solutions. These skills are the 3 highest levels of Bloom's taxonomy* of cognitive abilities. To remember, understand and apply knowledge are the 3 lowest levels. Unguided reading of a textbook or lecture notes will not lead to higher cognitive skills. To do so, we must set appropriate learning outcomes, and organize learning activities that provide progression to high-level operative engineering skills. Let's look at poster presentations experienced by a class of biomedical engineers. The task is to deconstruct biomedical devices into components. What materials might be used and what processes are appropriate? Typical devices are: an insulin injection pen; a heart pace-maker; a hearing aid. The students will remember and repeat material from the course and the textbook; they will understand and apply this knowledge to describing the components, thereby achieving the lower Bloom levels (BL1, BL2, and BL3) and reviewing the material. The students might well present data from CES, but only to compare materials using a single parameter e.g. stiffness or density. Now, increasing our level of ambition, so that the students analyze (BL4) appropriate materials and manufacturing processes, we must challenge them in the formulation of the problem. 'Consider mechanical loads during operation of the device'. And, 'Document how these factors should be optimized for performance'. The students are shown that CES can help by plotting materials property maps for direct comparisons. BL5 (evaluate) follows-on, almost naturally, when competing products are compared in relation to performance, safety, cost... These learning experiences provide new insight and abilities through successive processes of remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing and evaluating. Finally, creation and innovation (BL6) is not infrequent and is shared with the whole class.