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FFF3.06 - Improving Materials Selection in a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Course 
April 23, 2014   10:45am - 11:00am

The Capstone Design course in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Northeastern University requires students to build a physical prototype by the end of the two semester sequence. Although students have long been required to take an introductory materials science course as part of their curriculum, there was concern that materials selection was a weakness in the design process. Beginning in Fall 2011, the CES Edupack materials selection software was introduced into the Capstone Design class. The current work means to investigate: 1) how to assess designs for effective materials selection 2) whether the new software was actually used by the student teams and 3) whether there was evidence of improved materials selection in the projects that occurred after the new software was introduced. Final capstone design reports from 10 previous terms were examined to look for evidence of systematic materials selection procedures and clear discussion of materials properties as the basis for selecting a material. References to the software were also noted. Preliminary results show that 24% of the groups used the CES Software in the first three terms that the software was available. In addition, there was an increase in the number of groups that used a systematic selection process based on research into published materials properties, rather than choosing materials based on rough experimentation or convenience. Finally, there has been an increase in the number of projects which consider or incorporate composites, high temperature alloys, and advanced polymers as the software has increased awareness of these options.

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