A premier private university founded in 1865 by Asa Packer, an industrial pioneer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Lehigh is consistently ranked in the top tier of national research universities. Its four colleges have earned a reputation for their entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary approach to learning. Based in Bethlehem, Pa., Lehigh is the academic home to nearly 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students across its College of Engineering and Applied Science, College of Business and Economics, College of Arts and Sciences and College of Education.
Together with KEEN, Lehigh faculty work to develop best practices in entrepreneurially minded learning to be applied across all engineering disciplines and to the broader campus community. Lehigh values the multiple peer-to-peer learning opportunities as well as recognition for individual innovations in engineering education. Moreover, Lehigh is delighted to join KEEN in helping undergraduate students reawaken their curiosity, make connections to real world needs, and create true societal value.
Adding elements of entrepreneurial mindset is critical to student learning. They learn faster and are more interested. I believe that this is not only because of improved context, but also ownership that comes with an emphasis on curiosity and creating value.
--Edmund Webb III, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
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PBL module to design an “epic” tree house using finite element analysis.
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Exposing students to (a) polymer, (b) composite materials and (c) significance of composites in today’s products.
After being exposed to polymers in class, this activity is performed in groups of students during a single recitation period. The notion of crosslinking of polymers and the change in properties of the material is illustrated via in-lab synthesis of silly putty (combining PVA-containing glue with borax = cross-linked polymer).
Follow-on challenge would demonstrate advantages of composite material and how one can extend the range of utility of materials by taking advantage of two dissimilar materials (strong & hard material combined with a soft & resilient material). Students relate to concept via brittle & hard spaghetti combined with soft viscoelastic material, silly putty.
Competition: create a bridge across a gap that can hold up a minimum weight for 5 seconds using the formed silly putty and additional materials: spaghetti, long + short fibers/string, sand. The gap will be > 2x length of spaghetti. Each material will have a cost associated with them to correlate with value of additive in industry. Two categories: lowest cost and lowest weight.
After competition, discussion in lecture is held on the engineering of composites and how nature takes advantage of these traits, in particular human bone: hydroxyapatite (hard, brittle) & collagen (soft, flexible) and wood: cellulose fibers & lignin weak on their own, but strong once mixed. Underscore advantages of combining different materials.
Homework is then assigned: Investigate materials humans have created to make better, stronger, lighter, more resilient materials. Provide examples of 3 different composites and identify the two (or more components) vital to the composite. Underscore how these systems outperform prior “traditional” materials for this task: technological perspective (what can we make now that we couldn’t before? Can we make systems more efficient? Less corrosion? Lighter?) and economic benefits (what gains were made by using this composite: Reduced cost / longer lifetime? Less fuel consumption? Open new markets because can make a product that was not possible before? etc.). Propose a product that could be improved with a composite and articulate what value the composite would provide. Report should be a 2-page document. Suggest a composite material of choice, or if unavailable, what properties it should have.
- Lectures on polymers and composites in regular class time to provide engineering foundation of topics.
- One recitation sections used for students to experience methods of modifying material properties (15 min) followed by developing a composite material to meet certain strength criteria (25 min). End of development will be a face-off in front of everyone for lowest cost or weight.
- Homework due 2 weeks after competition.
Bragging rights for competition.
Homework assigned appropriate credit (~5% of final grade)
1) Curiosity (constant curiosity): To a student it is arguably not necessarily obvious that material properties can be modified and hence tailored to suit the needs at hand. By highlighting how a simple combination of “everyday” materials already leads to a material enabling one to perform something that would otherwise would seem impossible should open their eyes to how forming (new) composite materials as the ability to enable products their encounter on a daily basis.
3) Creating value (unexpected opportunities): By leveraging this new curiosity and knowledge, students are asked to look at how composites advance the ability for products to overcome challenges for which a single material may never be well suited. Connections are made how advances in materials lead to value creation by providing a product that ultimately can outperform the competition by improving efficiency or enabling a product outright.