An introductory Materials Engineering course can be challenging for students since in that course it is often the first time where students must integrate their knowledge of mathematics, chemistry and physics to solve a wide variety of complex and, at times, abstract problems. Finding new methods to teach the course content in order to more actively engage students is equally challenging for instructors. Two years ago, students at Western Washington University began to study part of the course content in materials engineering within the less abstract framework of acoustic/materials signatures of stringed musical instruments (particularly, violin “engineering”). Students can be actively engaged in this subject by posing a rather simple question. Why does a violin or guitar sound the way it does? Trying to answer that very question with materials science (and geometry) in class is a new way instructors may use in their course to more actively engage their students in materials science. This paper describes the use of violin “engineering” to create innovative lecture demonstrations and presentations illustrating acoustic and materials signatures as course supplements for any basic materials engineering course. These demonstrations require only the use of a laptop computer, the academic version of the Adobe Audition® software package (or equivalent), an inexpensive condenser type microphone, an inexpensive student stringed instrument (violin or guitar), and aluminum and wood vibrating plates. The paper gives the exact specifications for the various components needed to create these new lecture and/or lab demonstrations. The approach is innovative in that it takes a fundamental (and expensive) methodology normally used in the acoustic research of violins and other stringed instruments and translates it into a format that is not only affordable, but has also shown promise in our materials course to be a practical tool to actively engage students in materials science. Initial assessment data shows that the students are indeed more engaged in the course and there is measurable improvement in classical test question scores. Also, many students in the class have chosen to complete their research papers required for the class in these subjects; others have volunteered to work on undergraduate research projects investigating the materials signature of stringed instruments and new materials for such instruments. Geometry to create flat vibrating plates, including the top plate of a violin, is also given in the paper (the “violin.dxf” or “violin.igs” file is available upon request). A lengthy reference section is included so that additional demonstrations can be created by other instructors to satisfy their local materials engineering course needs.

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