Combining Research and Service Learning


1. Disseminating Qualitative Understanding of Material Types in Engineering Materials Classes

Students are introduced to NOCMATs by applying widely used, simple relationships, such as the rule of mixtures, involving material properties and microstructural variables such as volume fraction of phases and average microstructural feature size.  This is achieved in introductory materials courses in the context of materials selection for engineering design. Courses include: ENGR 0022 and CEE 2106


2. Structure-Property Relationships of NOCMATs

Both cultivated natural materials and earthen materials are distinguished by great microstructural heterogeneity and property variability associated with differences in growing conditions, local geology and processing protocols.  Pitt-NOCMAT is committed to creating the standard tests and data-rich environment needed to engineer with the complexity of NOCMATs.  This is accomplished by:

(i) Design of tests and procedures that properly represent the behavior of NOCMATs

(ii) Quantification of heterogeneous microstructures and microstructure variability

(iii) Quantification of the effect of growth/local geology/processing conditions on microstructure and microstructure variability

(iv) Modeling of properties and their variation using dedicated tests and material structure-property databases


3. Service Learning for Marginalized Communities through Pitt-NOCMAT Collaborators

Unique long term collaborations have been established with specific non-profit and intergovernmental organizations that work with communities and practitioners in the field.  These collaborations use the experience of field workers from collaborating organizations and participating Pitt-NOCMAT faculty to inform the projects undertaken by students at the University of Pittsburgh.  In this way, students participate in direct collaborations with marginalized communities and the organizations that serve them.  The projects can be undertaken at Pitt by students who do have the resources to travel, cannot travel or do not wish to travel.  When applicable and permitted, the projects could be used for senior research projects, special projects or Engineering for Humanity Certificate project credits.


4. Design Projects on Appropriate Technologies for Processing, Testing and Application of NOCMATs

Design projects are developed with non-profit organizations or other NOCMAT partners acting as customers and mentors.  Students commonly work on designs for processing equipment or testing equipment. These projects can be used for senior design projects, when applicable and permitted, special projects, or Engineering for Humanity Certificate project credits.  Pitt-NOCMAT also presently supports courses given in Architecture-Design (ARC).


5. Recruitment and Mentoring of Students in Pitt-NOCMAT

Given that Pitt-NOCMAT integrates several levels of educational experience, research and service, it is important to recruit students into the Pitt-NOCMAT community early in their educational careers at Pitt and retain them.  Participating Pitt-NOCMAT faculty give presentations to freshman students and incorporate Pitt-NOCMAT exercises into sophomore level courses to introduce them to NOCMATs.

Throughout their involvement in Pitt-NOCMAT, students are encouraged to participate in regular meetings and training workshops which also serve as forums for mentoring.  Students proceed to their service learning projects and finally discern whether or not they will continue their action after graduation and what form this will take.