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by John Marchment, Fe Coordinator

My first lesson with a new group involves getting them to dismantle a product and examine the components, discussing the properties they might require. At national level I use old electric shower units. They could be bought new reasonably cheaply or scrounged from a friendly plumber. They have lots of interesting requirements to do with heat, electricity, corrosion resistance and even some curious material choices influenced by processing considerations. At lower levels and for those with limited concentration spans try 13 amp plugs.

Materials selection

This one is often tricky as many full time students have little understanding of how anything works. Use examples from construction: doors, including the glazing, seals and frames, guttering etc. Get the students to select a range of different materials and compare their suitability before making a final choice.

Problem-based learning

Whilst this method is very popular with undergraduate courses, this is less well suited to level 2 & 3 students whose self-motivation can be limited. At HND/C and Foundation degree level it could be more useful. The UKCME site holds a number of resources and information.

Higher Nationals

Higher courses tend to have similar teaching requirements as first year undergraduate courses, with perhaps less emphasis on quantitative materials science. The MATTER software can help with visualisiation of some of the more difficult concepts. The most useful module is probably that on phase diagrams, which includes a number JAVA applets which demonstrate how an equilibrium diagram is constructed and how they can be used to predict alloy composition.

The SteelMatter and AluMATTER websites are also useful.