3.042 | Spring 2008 | Undergraduate

Materials Project Laboratory


Project Characteristics

It’s not always possible for a single project to have all the features desired in 3.042, but in developing a project proposal teams should strive to include the following:

  • The project has to live within constraints of available time and resources. Teams can seek resources from anywhere within or outside the Institute, not being limited to the laboratory facilities and staff assigned explicitly to 3.042. DMSE will reimburse costs for materials, copying, machining, etc. within reason. The time constraints are fixed, however, and very demanding. We strongly advise that the teams begin experimental work as soon as the project has been defined. These projects usually involve processes which sound straightforward on paper, but turn out to be surprisingly hard to implement in practice. So get some practice early on: it will pay off later. At the same time, give a lot of attention to design and project management projections - the more thorough the initial design, the more smoothly will the project go.
  • Given the very limited time available, the project must be relatively simple; avoid difficult-to-process materials, research-level processing methods, very small feature sizes, etc.
  • The project will ideally treat or at least consider a wide variety of materials: metals, ceramics, and polymers.
  • The project will usually have a principal processing method: injection molding, investment casting, sintering, etc. that will be exercised and analyzed in depth. Auxiliary processing methods are very desirable.
  • The project should ideally employ a wide variety of analytical methods and concepts in MSE; all four corners of the processing-structure-property-performance tetrahedron should be present, and treated at a high professional level.
  • It is desirable that all teams employ CAD, FEA and data acquisition/reduction software as appropriate in designing and analyzing their devices.
  • The project should build on the existing patent and journal literature in MSE.
  • Many past 3.042/3.082 projects have emulated a startup venture, with market and cost analyses being a natural part of the reporting. This approach works well, but projects with more of a research orientation would also be acceptable.

Project Management

Efficient project management is vital to timely and effective progress in 3.042. Gantt charts are one very useful management tool, and most of your project presentations will include an updating of your Gantt chart.

Gantt charts can be prepared by hand, but it is much easier to make and update them using software tools. Two methods you might consider include:

  • Microsoft Excel (XLS)
  • Microsoft Project (MPP)

There is an Open Source version of Microsoft Project available for download from the Web.


Each Thursday, two or more teams will present a 20-minute progress report. The presentation will usually begin with an overview slide reminding the audience of the team’s project, and an updated Gantt chart showing the team’s recent and planned progress. These can then be followed by slides giving more detailed descriptions of pertinent aspects of the work. The presentations will typically use computer projection of PowerPoint files that are also placed in the team’s Web pages.

Oral presentation is one of the most important factors influencing career advancement, perhaps even more than technical writing. You’ll want to consider the following points:

  • It may seem necessary to spend some of your presentation time on administrative problems such as difficulties finding suppliers. However, these aspects can be included in your Web log instead, and your presentation will be much more effective if you concentrate on teaching aspects of MSE your work has used or uncovered.
  • Avoid slides with bulleted text lists if possible; they tend to be boring and ineffective. Use drawings or photos instead, and use them as a focus for your spoken words. The speaker provides the words; the slides provide visual backup.
  • Use a stick or laser pointer, never your finger (or even worse, the shadow of your finger). The pointer and other paraphernalia are your responsibility; don’t assume the instructors or others will provide them. Don’t wave the pointer around, but be crisp and definitive in pointing to objects on the screen. Make sure all in the audience can see the screen, and don’t block it with your body or your shadow.
  • Don’t bring too many visuals: two minutes per slide is about right, but of course it depends on the content. The amount of time permitted in a presentation is limited and usually much shorter than you’d like, and it’s easy to ruin a presentation by running out of time. Rehearsing is a very good idea.
  • Don’t make pseudo-drawings out of colored rectangles and other low-level graphics; use CAD software or a scanned-in drawing.
  • Work at keeping the technical level appropriate to the audience – in 3.042 you’re speaking to persons with a lot of education in materials, though probably not in the specific subarea of your talk. You want to bring your audience up to a professional level of understanding about your project and its underlying science.
  • On demeanor: Be relaxed and engaging, but not flippant or juvenile. Speak clearly and slowly. Be dramatic, though not too much so. A little humor is fine, but stay on-message. Don’t showboat or project a know-it-all arrogance. Smile; make a lot of eye contact. Try to fill your audience with excitement about your work.

Past Projects

The following list of student projects completed during past semesters of 3.042/3.082 is presented to give an idea of the range of processing techniques and applications covered by the course.

  • Light Emitting Organometallic Display
  • Lightweight Magnesium Rollerblade Frames
  • Injection Molding of Bone Plates
  • Micron Scale Casting of Turbines
  • Shape Memory Alloy Braille Reader
  • Investment Casting of Furnace Tongs
  • Ever-Sharp Skate Blades
  • Composite Durable, Lightweight Skateboard
  • X-Actuator Microcasting
  • Biocompatible Jaw Implants
  • Ferromagnetic Shape Memory Alloy Dynamic Dampers
  • Heated Gloves
  • Foamed-Electrode NiMH Batteries
  • Ti-based Hip Implants
  • Tennis Racket Strings
  • Organic Photovoltaics
  • Fiber-Epoxy Track Spikes
  • Carbon Composite Disc Brakes
  • Electrohydraulic Sheet Metal Forming
  • Vermiform Biomimetic Actuation
  • Aerogel Contact Lense Solution Purification
  • 3D Printing of Auxetic Structures
  • Metal Matrix Composite Hammer
  • High Temperature Superconducting Solenoid Punch
  • Thermoformed Safe Water Storage
  • Piezoelectric Polymer Electricity Harvesting
  • Portable Electric Heat Therapy
  • High Temperature BSCCO Superconductors
  • Amorphous Si/SiGe Solar Cells
  • CAD and Rapid Prototyping by 3D Printing
  • Silver Nanoparticle/Ceramic Drinking Containers
  • 3D Printed Bone Scaffolding
  • Low-Cost Prosthetic Hands
  • Electroporation Water Disinfection
  • Antibacterial Cytophillic Polyelectolyte Multilayers
  • Ambient Vibrational Energy Scavenging
  • Low Cost Water Tap
  • Prosthetic Limb Liner
  • Brass Chess Set
  • Acoustics of Cast Bronze Bells

Student Projects

One student team this semester investigated the casting of bronze bells, analyzing their microstructure and tone quality. Their final presentation is presented as an example of student work for this course.

Team Hemony Final Presentation (PDF - 3.8 MB) (Courtesy Allison Kunz, Naomi Coronel, and Shakeel Avadhany. Used with permission.)

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2008