Carnegie Mellon Engineering Prof Teaches Materials Science with Minecraft
- By Joshua Bolkan
An assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is using Minecraft to teach her students about the properties of building materials.
B. Reeja Jayan is using the game in her special topics course, "Materials and Their Processing for Mechanical Engineers," by asking students to build games and rooms on the classroom server for their final projects. Jayan said it's the first time the world-building game has been fully integrated with an engineering course at the university level.
Minecraft allows players to explore and interact with a virtual world and build structures within it.
"I was trying to use this culture of building to help students visualize ideas and think about what it was that they were building and how they would do it in a real-world scenario," Jayan said in a prepared statement. "This course teaches students how materials have specific internal arrangements of atoms and how processing techniques can change this structure and lead to differences in properties like mechanical behavior and strength."
Jayan asked her students to use their projects to present materials science principles in an interactive way. Projects included games that asked players to build materials using the best techniques of processing and synthesis, museums of crystal structures and replicas of steel factories.
"Minecraft has enabled me to understand materials science in a very tangible way," said Genevieve Parker, a junior in mechanical engineering, according to information released by CMU. "I loved the ability to walk around a model of a crystal structure and visualize content in three dimensions. You can't beat the interactivity that comes with a Minecraft classroom. The ability to build and be creative on homework assignments and our project motivated me to learn and kept me engaged as I did my work."
Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.