Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
January 7, 2000

Materials science team receives $490,000 for curriculum changes

by Sunanda Vittal, Engineering Publication and Communication Services
A group of Iowa State professors received a $490,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance the undergraduate curriculum in the materials science and engineering department without increasing the number of course credits needed for graduation.

Under a "vertically integrated design curriculum" proposed by David Jiles, Mufit Akinc, Kristen Constant, Bruce Thompson and Bulent Briner, sophomores and juniors will work with seniors and graduate students on industrially relevant projects. Also involved in the interdisciplinary project are Joseph Gray, mechanical engineering; Lester Schmerr, aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics; and Mary Huba, professional studies.

The existing curriculum requires undergraduates to take a capstone design course only in their senior year. The new curriculum will incorporate design and practice earlier to encourage communication, problem-solving and team skills.

A central component of the curriculum will involve the corporate-sponsored industries of the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation, where undergraduates will receive hands-on experience.

Sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students will work together on engineering practice and design courses and experimental research projects. Sophomores' involvement in the design course will be as assistants or "apprentices," while juniors will be more substantially involved. The seniors will act as "project leaders" and the graduates as "consultants." The concept of vertically integrated design parallels that of R&D teams in industry, in which engineers with different backgrounds and experiences assume different roles.

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