Objectives and Format

Course Objectives

This course will introduce students to how the discovery and manipulation of new materials impacted social structure both historically and in the present day, and how social and cultural forces that shape the development and use of materials and technologies from the past to future continue to affect our lives. This course will require students to:

  • examine the interrelated nature of society and materials engineering;
  • demonstrate how materials can be manipulated to solve technical and sociocultural problems;
  • explore how social and cultural systems shape how humans perceive the intrinsic physical properties of materials;
  • discuss how the impact of materials on society varies with cultural and historical context;
  • compare a variety of approaches from the humanities, social sciences, and sciences;
  • to examine and shape the impact of materials and degradation of materials on society;
  • apply basic skills in cross-disciplinary communication and argumentative writing;
  • evaluate how disciplinary approaches and personal beliefs shape our understanding of materials;
  • apply new course concepts through applied projects discussing future materials innovations and sustainability.

Course Format

The course materials for Impact of Materials on Society are delivered in 13 learning modules via a combination of video lectures, e-texts, and high-quality application videos. Each module of this course will focus on a particular class of materials. It is important that students follow the modules in the sequence they are presented in order to best prepare for the assignment at the end of each module. Modules begin with a lecture exploring the physical properties of a particular material delivered by University of Florida Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Dr. Kevin Jones and a selection of readings outlining historical case studies of that material’s major social impacts. Building upon that new knowledge, students will explore innovative applications of various materials by completing an assignment based on a short video that synthesizes the impact of modern materials being developed by scientists from
around the U.S.

Throughout the course students are encouraged to stretch their framework of understanding by adding to an Impact Paradigm introduced in Module 1, and then writing an essay comparing two materials using that paradigm as a mid-course assessment and as part of a final project. To culminate each module, students will evaluate their personal, as well as society’s, interconnectedness with each material by creating a tanglegram, a graphic tool used to illustrate the relationships between the material and living world, and then writing a short critical essay that elaborates on the impact of that material on humanity.


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Impact of Materials on Society: Instructor Guide & Supplemental Materials Copyright © by Sophia Acord; Kevin S. Jones; Marsha Bryant; Debra Dauphin-Jones; and Pamela Hupp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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