Integration of a research/teaching/entrepreneurship model at Elizabethtown College
In this paper we review an integrated research-teaching-entrepreneurship project at Elizabethtown College, where majors in engineering and business are offered in addition to liberal arts curricula. The research component involves a continuous monitoring of the free- and bound-water rotation spectrum in hydrating portland cement over the frequency range 10 kHz to 8 GHz from initial mixing to several weeks cure, using broadband Time-Domain-Reflectometry (TDR) Dielectric Spectroscopy and an embedded capacitance sensor. The result is an improved understanding of the hydration process from a molecular dynamics standpoint, and a foundation for using TDR spectroscopy as a powerful tool for investigating the hydration process in cementitious materials. In addition, the ability to interrogate the sensor in the time domain and extract information from the direct reflected transient can provide a novel and robust cure-monitoring method usable in the field. The teaching component consists of integrating undergraduate students in this research through individual and team engineering projects that are offered in design and project courses from first to senior year. Some of the projects are offered to vertically integrated engineering teams (i.e., a team composed of first year students, sophomores and juniors); other projects involve interdisciplinary teams with students from engineering, applied physics, chemistry or biology. This effort sprang from collaboration between the College and a small industrial partner, whose laboratories are located at the College and whose main technical expert offers support for teaching engineering and physics courses as a research scientist. These efforts have additional advantages such as generating collaborations and synergies among technical personnel and faculty. Future developments may involve the integration of TDR tools with other electrical and optical methods, the TDR measurement of tissue and life science samples in collaboration with the Biology Department, and the integration of a business entrepreneurship component where business students try to market and sell the services and instrumentation generated by these efforts. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2007.