Traditionally, the engineering canon focuses solely on technical skills, but there is a growing demand for engineers who design solutions in from a sociotechnical perspective. This paper describes “Bring in your Trash” a module for a third year Materials Science course where students explore materials classification in hands-on way that connected to their everyday life with attention to social context. This module was successfully implemented in Fall 2017 with 31 students from General, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering. Students brought in their own weeks' worth of trash. The first portion of class time focused on materials categorization and classification, engineering concepts they had been previously introduced to in class. A class debrief challenged students to think about topics related to recycling in general and their larger social responsibility in material choice as future engineers. In a subsequent reflection, students provided feedback, suggestions for improvement and articulated their meaningful takeaways from the module. Analysis of student responses shows that learning objectives were achieved. Lessons learned suggest improvements for future iterations of this module and adaption to other instructors' classrooms. INTRODUCTION As defined by Merriam-Webster, engineering is “the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people” (1). The technical nature of this definition continues into the canon shaping the engineering curriculum. While engineering education has traditionally focused solely on the technical skillset, there is a growing industry and academic demand for engineers who possess social and global values to better align with the changing industry (2) (3) (4) (5). Terminology such as ‘socio-technical' engineering is becoming more common, as is the blending of the social with the technical in and out of the classroom. Leaders in engineering at Lafayette College believe, “Because technologies are designed by people, it follows that technologies are not divorced from the realities of human culture and our attendant moral and political concerns. Those nontechnical aspects cannot be checked at the design door, as it were, nor held outside of the technologies engineers create.” (2) The integration of the social context into traditional technical engineering curricula aims to produce engineers who are more socially responsible as well as better prepared for their careers. The creative integration of social with technical contexts in the materials science and engineering classroom to assist student learning of broader concepts has been explored before. Baillie and Vanasupa creatively conjure contextualized scenarios for materials science students and faculty to dive into, exploring materials characterization, composites, polymers, semiconductors, and other traditional materials science topics (6). Others have tested formal in-class and lab activities that bring together 17 century cultural implications or team scavenger hunts with materials science topics in unique project-based learning experiences (7) (8) (9). Going beyond a national context of project-based learning, some have brought global challenges into the classroom to engage students that fosters a new responsibility to their engineering and science degrees and others are developing full courses to purposefully fold technology in materials science with ethics and social responsibility (10) (11) (12).
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