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Publication Date


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ASEE IL-IN Section Annual Conference Proceedings


ASEE IL-IN Section


First-semester freshmen may have learned how to produce pie charts and bar graphs in high school, but they have little experience with engineering graphs. To become successful engineers, students need to develop skills in presenting and interpreting graphical data. An introductory materials course is an ideal place to introduce these concepts because the topic is data-rich, and successful interpretation of graphs leads to understanding of materials engineering and economic concepts. For example, the shape of the liquidus curve on the iron-carbon phase diagram helps explain why cast steels are more expensive to manufacture than cast irons.

In this course, students develop graphical skills from lectures, handouts, and assignments. For example, students plot their own hardness readings together with an empirically-derived ASTM curve, then they evaluate how well their data matches the curve. They create phase diagrams from alloy data. They create stress-strain diagrams from their own laboratory readings, and calculate mechanical properties from the results. They learn how to deal with outliers on a homework assignment. They learn that Microsoft Excel’s built-in curve-fitting choices do not cover unusual data patterns, such as the S-curves for impact vs. temperature graphs.

Student performance is assessed with a grading rubric which evaluates graphs within laboratory reports. Low performance on three laboratory reports has led to instructional improvements, including additional focus in the lecture and detailed handouts. Subsequent assessment shows continued improvement in skill levels from one laboratory report to the next, and from one semester to the next.


Freshmen, graphing, data presentation


Materials Science and Engineering