3 Activities to Understanding Biomaterials

This course designed a set of interactive, hands-on, in-class activities designed to allow students to explore concepts before they were rigorously presented in lecture.


  • The objective for the near-weekly in-class activities is to get students thinking independently about a materials-related concept, begin forging intuition around it, and do so without any assessment (i.e., an associated grade).


The Teaching Fellow for this course designed a set of interactive, hands-on, in-class activities designed to allow students to explore concepts before they were rigorously presented in lecture. One activity was done each week of the course, unless there was an exam or major project deliverable due that week. The prerequisites for these activities were simply to be enthusiastic and to participate. The in-class activities were either hands-on brief experiments, physical demos, short design problems, or example problem set questions. Three activity examples are highlighted in this post: Hip implant activity, hydrogels for biomedical study and a quick diffusion study.


  1. Before class.
    • For instructors using slides in their lecture, the activity would be prepared before class and inserted within the lecture to emphasize a learning point.
  2. In class.
    • During the lecture, the instructor would begin the activity by posing a biomaterials-related problem, thought, or concept to the class, providing a foundation for the activity's objectives
    • Students were then broken up into design or problem solving teams, and the instructor began reviewing the instructions for the exercise once the students were settled.

Hip implant activity

      1. The teaching team provided the student teams with diagrams of all parts of a hip implant and a bank of functions each part of the implant was designed to perform.
      2. Next, the instructor explained the overall function of a hip implant, but had them brainstorm what materials each component would need to be comprised of, try to match functions and material with each part, and then pitch their ideas to the rest of the class.
      3. The lecture then resumed, provided them with the correct answers, and hopefully strengthened the intuition they were able to develop during the activity.

Hydrogels for Biomedical applications

      1. During a lecture on hydrogels for biomedical applications, the instructor handed some materials (examples in attached slides) to students.
      2. Not knowing their identity, students safely handled them, and tried to understand and elucidate various material chemistries and properties by looking at the materials' behavior at various temperatures.
      3. Besides the materials, a heating block, and ice bath, the students were only provided illustrations of the materials' molecular structures; they had to work out which hydrogel was made of which polymer.
      4. Next, the instructor resumed the lecture and showed the students how the materials they just studied were used in their latest bio printing paper.

Quick Diffusion Study

      1. Before Class: The instructor set up many samples a week in advance with the plan of providing each student team 5 hydrogel samples with dye
      2. In Class: Instructor provided student teams with five different hydrogel samples with dye.
      3. Students added the dye each hydrogel sample at various time points (up to a week), and students had to measure the diffusion profile of the dye into each hydrogel sample and try to calculate the dye's diffusion coefficient.


  • The instructor notes that these activities kept students engaged in the lecture
  • The instructor advises other instructors to have a clear objective for the activity that is related to the lecture
  • The instructor also advises other instructors to prepare these in-class activities so that they seamlessly interfaced with the lectures.


  • Nothing was expected of students from the in-class activities other than their participation. Occasionally, however, in order to derive further purpose from the in-class activities that were more experiment-based, the instructor built off the data the students collected in class within the homework assignments.


  • Hydrogels activity: materials, a heating block, and ice bath
  • Quick diffusion study: hydrogel samples, dye

Submitted by Ryan L. Truby, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences


jal_be191_lecture_6_class_activity_copy.pptx3.52 MB
rheology_activity_slides.pptx352 KB
jal_be191_lecture_7_class_activity_final.pptx951 KB
rheology_activity_handout.docx53 KB