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Teaching Materials Science & Engineering in a Two-Year Mechanical Engineering Degree Programme
A key activity in the design and manufacturing process is the selection of materials for the product. In recent years, the advent of 3D printing technology and industry has lend to the development of new materials and new paradigms for effective deployment of materials for design and manufacturing using 3D printers. The Mechanical Design & Manufacturing Engineering (MDME) degree programme is a two-year BEng (Honours) degree programme, run by NUIS (for Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne) in partnership with SIT (the fifth university in Singapore), aimed at the polytechnic graduates who wish to further their education in Singapore. Normally a BEng (Honours) degree spans three years (stage 1, 2 & 3) in England—mechanical engineering programmes are no exception. However, on the basis of good GPA scores and having satisfactory passed diploma subjects related to Mathematics, Physics, Materials and Mechanics (Statics and Dynamics), polytechnic graduates (with mechanical engineering related diplomas) who wish to further their study in Mechanical Engineering have been able to enroll at ‘stage 2’, and finishing at ‘stage 3’. The lecture and lab classes operate at the Nanyang Polytechnic campus, by leveraging the polytechnic facilities. The students are taught materials-related subjects in stage 2 and stage 3. A major difficulty facing the students addresses the unfamiliarity with basic principles in materials science because the students have been used to studying this subject from a practical fact-based approach; generally, the students regard theories with apprehension. Here, we have adopted an approach that aims to tear down their apprehension by emphasizing the application of the theories to failure analysis and design considerations. The common thread, metals, is used as an example in both the lectures and lab sessions. As part of this approach, it is important to facilitate time for the students to reflect on their understandings and picking up new information, where needed, around the subject area related to the lab experiments that they have carried out. In particular, the lab experiments involve tensile testing of steel to rupture prepared to different temperatures (to create variability, and to get students to apply simple descriptive statistics for data analysis). The key aspect here is the report-the students are expected to be able to apply the knowledge learnt during lectures (from atoms, crystal structure, to phase diagrams, phase transformation, fracture studies, materials selection) to develop arguments for their observations and to present them in the report which takes the form of a typical research paper. This module is delivered in semester 1 of stage 2 and aims to encourage them to continuously apply a learning approach that is open-ended driven and not bound by regurgitating facts.