Computing has had a tremendous impact on research in materials engineering and engineering mechanics during the last decade, but much of this knowledge remains to be transferred into the classroom. Access to supercomputing has led to the development of new numerical models, simulation-visualization tools, and potentially useful material systems. A sequence of two courses - one for seniors and the other for first year graduate students - is proposed in which state-of-the-art computer hardware and software will be used to teach the concepts and techniques of modern material performance simulation. The focus will be on the range of computer simulations covering and linking the physical length scales necessary for taking a material from the laboratory to the marketplace. These courses will bring into the classroom, research in materials engineering that the Principal Investigators and others have been conducting over the last six years, with an emphasis on computational methods applied to the study of deformation and fracture processes from the atomistic scale to the macroscopic scale. Subjects will be introduced and taught using advanced visual tools and interactive computing in the classroom, and will prepare students for designing complex material systems for the 21st century. Topics to be covered include effect of dislocations, grain boundaries and crystal orientations on material response; dependence of macroscopic behavior upon that of the constituents; localization of the deformation into narrow bands of intense plastic deformation; effects of material anisotropy; crack initiation and propagation in metals and ceramics; performance of advanced composites; modeling of heterogeneous materials; and wave propagation in anisotropic media. An interdisciplinary team of material scientists and engineering mechanicians will develop and teach the courses. The courses will also emphasize design of material systems and thus enhance the capstone design component of the existing engineering curriculum.
The courses will have Web-Java based modules on specific topics in atomistic aspects of Materials Science and Micromechanics. The modules will stress the way in which macroscopic materials properties are controlled by phenomena at the atomistic and microstructural levels. Advanced computational and scientific visualization techniques will be used to incorporate research into the modules. The National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA) will work with Virginia Tech as part of NCSA's new Partnership in Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) proposal (pending). Together researchers will create modules that will access NCSA computing resources and provide visual interpretation of simulation results both in real-time on the Web and by Java enabled batch jobs submitted to remote supercomputers both at Virginia Tech and NCSA. Access can then also be extended to PACI industrial partners and other Universities. Virginia Tech has also been funded by NSF (CDA-9601874) to build a CAVE virtual environment in partnership with NCSA. The virtual immersive CAVE environment will be used to demonstrate complex structure property relationships.
Educational pedagogy will follow the current research methodology on notions of learning higher level problem solving skills, and the requisite knowledge necessary to operationalize them, in contexts which are as realistic as possible. For example, useable knowledge is situated in the environment in which it is needed. Knowledge and skills learned in the classroom are situated in the classroom and, as a result, best remembered in the classroom. Conversely, knowledge and skills learned in the problem solving context are most usable in that context as well. A critical evaluation component will then be used to measure the transfer of what is learned to novel, realistic contexts. Visualization, by providing a more context rich set of stimuli, should produce the most "portable" knowledge. An evaluation team will consist of: 1. Industry: Drs. Buddy Poe (NASA-Langley ); Dr. Vijay Stokes (General Electric Co.), 2. Virginia Tech: Dr. R. E. Denton, Jr., Head of Communication Studies and one faculty member from the Mechanics and Materials Sceince Departments; 3. Other Universities: 1. D.J. Srolovitz (Univ. of Michigan), D.M. Barnett (Stanford), A. Gilat (Ohio State Univ.), R. Talreja (Georgia Tech), G.J. Weng (Rugers), P.K. Law (Univ. Tennessee), and Elias Aifantis (Michigan Technological Univ.). Together these individauls will formulate and evaluate the course content in anticipation of needs of the materials engineers in industry. Some of these individuals have volunteered to participate in the creation of courseware.
The course contents, philosophy, modules, and the feedback received from various segments of the scientific and industrial community, will be disseminated to the engineering community at large through presentation of the work at suitable conferences, workshops, short courses, seminars, the Web, and educational journals.