Educators teaching introductory materials science courses know the drill: we have large classes filled with students from diverse backgrounds, with divergent aspirations and interests. And as with any type of compulsory learning experience, we look out onto a sea of people – some of whom want to be there; some don’t – and are tasked with finding how best to convey an understanding of a vast range of scale and concepts. Arguably, at this introductory level, the most fundamental of which is the relationship between Process, Structure, and Properties – otherwise known as the materials paradigm.
Successful products require Engineers and Designers to collaborate, often around materials choices: balancing performance with aesthetics for the ideal product experience. Engineering curricula don’t always recognise the importance of this connection. Engineers and Designers get only a limited understanding of each other’s work, while Materials is often an under-appreciated subject. Cambridge Engineering Professor, Mike Ashby, published the book “Materials and Design” in 2009 and has worked on several learning tools to inspire Design and Engineering students about each other’s subjects, and about materials. But it has proved hard to marry the quantitative engineering perspective with descriptions of aesthetics that are often variable and culturally-dependent.
If two heads are better than one, imagine the benefits of two communities coming together to share each other’s views on materials and processes to make the best designed, best engineered products. That’s the premise behind a new educational project at Granta Design.
If we can inspire designers and engage engineers to learn about each other’s vital role in product development, and enable them to communicate in the common language of materials, we can arrive at a whole that is much greater than the sum of the parts. Two views, one vision. The new CES EduPack ‘Products, Materials and Processes’ Database offers university educators and their students two views of materials information, the Designer’s View and the Engineer’s View, so both can learn how to create successful products that are functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Materials educators at undergraduate level consistently raise the concern: how can we engage students in learning about materials?
Engaged students learn more and are more enjoyable to teach, and project-based teaching inspires students across engineering, design, and scientific degrees. It appeals to their sense of curiosity, integrates their knowledge and helps them to learn professional skills such as teamwork, communication, and project management.