Congratulations to Prof. Kevin Jones, from the University of Florida, on receiving the NAMES (North American Materials Education Symposium) 2018 award for Outstanding Contributions to Materials Education for his course “Impact of Materials on Society” (IMOS).
Introduced at the start of the 2012/13 academic year, IMOS is an innovative cross-disciplinary course at the interface of engineering and the social sciences. By exploring the relationship between the discovery of new materials and the development of technologies and social structures, it teaches students that engineering shapes – and is shaped by – social and cultural variables.
Speaking in a 2015 interview with the Materials Research Society (MRS), Prof. Kevin Jones explained that “you don’t create something in a vacuum, you create in a society. So, society is influencing what your creation is as much as your creation is influencing society”. Understanding this ‘entanglement’ is a fundamental aspect of the course.”
IMOS also makes use of an Impact Paradigm (below), through which students are encouraged to ask themselves questions from a materials, historical, technological, and societal perspective. For example: what are the general material properties? When was the material first used? What technologies has the material enabled? What were the political implications of the development? What are the social perceptions?, etc. Based on these questions, students are guided through projects, ultimately assessing the impact of society on a material they choose.
With a long-term goal of disseminating IMOS to other universities, all of the course materials have been made readily available to the public, including lecture videos, lecture slides, new materials videos, and even an open source textbook. Take some time to look through these resources here (highly recommended!)
Six years after the course began Prof. Kevin Jones reflects on the program’s development:
“The course has exceeded our wildest dreams. Students today really want to change the world for the better, and this class helps them understand better how to do that. It’s been tremendously fun to teach and I look forward to our continued efforts to implement the course at other universities.”