Educator Roundtable: Teaching Standards

Standardization News

Educator Roundtable: Teaching Standards

Three educators describe how they use standards in the classroom.

Q. Why do you believe education about standards and standards development is important? 

A. Janet Gbur: Standards organizations, ABET [originally the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology], and employers have long recognized a need for technical standards education. However, the literature shows that engineering students do not receive much exposure to the topic. As an educator, I feel it is important for us to infuse standards education into existing curricula early in the program. Students begin seeking internship opportunities as early as their sophomore year, many of which are in industry. Fundamental exposure to standards and how they impact the global community can help provide a framework for what students may do in internships, upper division labs, and capstone projects. 

A. Angelo Lampousis: I believe education about standards and standards development is important for both more and less obvious reasons. The ability to comprehend industry trends while they happen or even before they happen is one reason. Also, knowledge of applicable standards as they evolve ensures the successful completion of projects, streamlining of operations, and effective communication with stakeholders of diverse backgrounds, from students to seasoned professionals. Less obviously, standards education is transformative, making people understand differing points of view. It’s the best “real-world” training: experiencing the process. Since much academic education leads to over-specializing professionally, participation in standards development trains people early in communicating their professional opinions and findings. 

A. Jay Bhatt: The ABET criteria require that any programs seeking their accreditation must satisfy several criteria, including “a culminating major engineering design experience that 1) incorporates appropriate engineering standards and multiple constraints, and 2) is based on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier course work.” Engineering students must learn how to find, use, and apply engineering standards and constraints while successfully completing a design project, culminating in a product that meets all safety requirements as identified in the standards used. Students must have knowledge of standards ahead of this. Since ABET requires documented student outcomes, clearly, education about standards and standards development is critically important. 

Q. How do you include ASTM International standards in your educational work? 

A. Janet Gbur: ASTM International standards play an integral role in my research, student mentoring, and teaching. As a researcher, standards figure largely in evaluating the reliability of micro-scale medical devices and associated components and materials. Additionally, I work with one or two students each semester, mentoring their individual research, and the projects frequently involve searching for and learning to read standards for mechanical testing and materials characterization. In the classroom, I include standards throughout the semester. I teach a course on materials engineering and have woven in basic information about standards development organizations and created assignments on researching standards, reading standards, and using small aspects of standards in simple classroom activities. I pair the activities with the course book content: In some instances, the students work with standards they are provided with and in others, they are encouraged to look at standards on topics of personal interest (i.e., recreation equipment, protective equipment, etc.). 

A. Angelo Lampousis: I routinely include ASTM’s “10 Standards for Students Package,” which costs $10. I’d like to gratefully acknowledge ASTM International for this option, which has become ever more essential as we transition to “Z-Degrees,” indicating zero textbook cost. For the City University of New York, and specifically for the City College of New York where I work, a low-cost textbook is greatly appreciated by our students, 40% of whom reportedly come from households with annual incomes of less than $20,000. I use these standards extensively in my educational work and courses: the practice for environmental site assessments: Phase I environmental site assessment process (E1527), and the practice for environmental site assessments: Phase II environmental site assessment process (E1903). 

A. Jay Bhatt: Drexel University’s engineering and biomedical engineering senior design classes require students to use and reference standards they used while trying to solve their senior project design problem. At the start of the term, I present to our senior engineering students about the libraries’ resources for these projects, including how to access standards online via Drexel University Libraries’ website. The presentation gets added to the course webpages through our online course management system at Drexel, and students can access the presentation at any time. Students also consult with me virtually (during the pandemic) on how to find and use standards. My presentation also includes information on accessing ASTM’s virtual classroom web resources, which help students learn more about standards and the standardization process. I believe that learning about the fundamentals of standards is crucially important in addition to finding a standard through ASTM Compass. 

Q. What caught your interest in mechanical engineering (instead of other engineering disciplines) and its applications? 

A. Janet Gbur: My path is a little different, and academically diverse. I started with a B.S. in biology/ pre-medicine and simultaneously worked on a B.E. in materials engineering while taking classes in marketing and public relations to support an unrelated small business that I owned. I was attracted to the fields initially via interests in orthotics and prosthetics. Then for my MSE, I pursued mechanical engineering and worked with an orthopedic trauma surgeon investigating the effects of removal of hip fixation hardware. For my Ph.D., I returned to materials science and engineering and focused on the fatigue and fracture of Nitinol. If you were to create a Venn diagram with my degrees, the intersection is where I work: a combination of materials, mechanics, and medicine. What attracts me to this area of work is the ability to see projects from the basic science stage and their translation to applications that positively impact people. 

Q. How are brownfields [potentially contaminated sites] important in your work, and how do you feel standards make a difference in site assessment and related areas? 

A. Angelo Lampousis: Brownfields are essential in my work. Training students in Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments in the City University of New York, the largest urban U.S. university system, has its own benefits. First, we are surrounded by very well-run organizations, such as the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast, the New York City Brownfield Partnership, and the New Jersey Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association. (Full disclosure: I joined the board of the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast earlier this year.) Other initiatives specific to New York City, such as the Clean Soil Bank, a no-cost soil exchange program operated by New York City’s Office of Environmental Remediation, offer unique opportunities to appreciate brownfields redevelopment work from multiple angles. ASTM standards make a big difference in environmental site assessments work conducted within the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut). ASTM E1527 time and again proves its relevance because it is recognized by the courts and is also a reference point for states such as New Jersey, which has its own unique definition of “All Appropriate Inquiries.” 

Q. As a librarian and teacher, you connect with students outside the classroom as well as in it. How do you view your work as building on or beginning education about standards? 

A. Jay Bhatt: I try to reinforce critical thinking skills by asking questions such as, “Why is this article important?” “How it will contribute to my research?” “What are standards?” “Which standards are going to help in making our design product safe?” Asking questions like these help the students (and me) discover their information needs as well as gain insight into appropriate resources and standards that might help meet those needs. Students also become engaged in the discovery process, becoming self-directed, life-long learners who can apply problem-solving skills to their work. We’ve also developed videos, with assistance from the Drexel University Libraries Curricula Support Team, to help educate students about standards. When students successfully use standards in their projects, as evident from the references they show; the prototypes in operation during final presentations; and their explanations of how a particular standard helped, this gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Feeling that students understand the values of using standards to make the product safe, thus enhancing the safety of people worldwide, inspires me to think about trying out innovative ways of educating students about standards. 

Janet Gbur, Ph.D., is a research associate in materials science and engineering at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. An ASTM International member since 2012, she is second vice chair of the committee on metallography (E04) and a member of the committees on fatigue and fracture (E08), mechanical testing (E28), and medical and surgical materials and devices (F04).

Angelo Lampousis, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the City College of New York, part of the City University of New York. A member of the committee on environmental assessment, risk management, and corrective action (E50), he joined ASTM International in 2010.

Jay Bhatt is the engineering librarian at Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the ASTM Committee on Publications.

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