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The evolution of engineering materials

Assoc Prof Amber Genau | University of Alabama

The evolution of engineering materials

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The author has developed an upper level engineering elective entitled "The Evolution of Engineering Materials." The course considers how the discovery of new materials and the ability of process materials in new ways has influenced the course of history, shaping both human societies and their surrounding environments. The class begins in the Stone Age and moves forward in time through the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution, and the Modern Era. Students become familiar with a variety of relevant technical content through the consideration of historical activity, from smelting and coking to polymerization reactions and crosslinking. In addition, the course addresses a variety of ABET outcomes, particularly by providing the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context (ABET outcome (h)).
The presentation will provide an outline of the course topics and assigned readings, which include modern texts, primary sources from the 1st through the 20th centuries, and studies of archaeological materials. Although this course was developed for and taught in the context of three-week study abroad trips to Europe, the engaging and accessible nature of the content could also make it valuable as a service course for non-engineering majors. The course is currently serving as the inspiration for a new collaborative effort between the School of Engineering and the history department on the author's campus. Starting in Fall 2017, a two-course, co-taught history sequence will be offered that is designed to help students understand and appreciate the importance of history to their work and identity as engineers, while also meeting some of the university's general education requirements.