Curriculum Element: Design Process Example–Designing Dental Composites

Return to Curriculum Elements »

Author: Professor Marjorie Rawhouser, Anne Arundel Community College (

Short Description: Students in introductory engineering design courses get an opportunity to use dental composites as a model to understand the mechanical properties of materials in terms of stress and strain (modulus of elasticity).

Implementation Levels: Introductary engineering courses. Examples: Introduction to Engineering Design (EGR 120) at Anne Arundel Community College; Introduction to Engineering Design (ENES 100) at the University of Maryland.


All materials are characterized by the modulus of elasticity, which relates elastic stress and strain. This is one of the first mechanical properties engineers typically learn. Composite materials have specific characteristics that makes them ideal candidate for producing strong structures including those used in dental fillings. This curriculum element provides an opportunity for students to acquire and improve their collaborative, team-building and problem-solving skills. It is a group project and students experience the design process steps while designing composites for dental fillings as a model system. Dental composites are a good model system because students can relate to the application but it is unlikely that any students will have significant prior knowledge. The students are initially given sufficient background information related to modulus of elasticity, stress and strain of materials. Working in groups, helps students to learn about composite materials and also enables them to synthesize the information and apply the principles towards designing new and improved dental composites. Student groups also write a summary on one composite material and present it to the class. This curriculum element has components that evaluate the quantitative and scientific communication skills, in addition to their critical thinking skills and information literacy.


  • Student Survey (Word | PDF)
    Students are asked to provide feedback on the activity.
  • Dental Composites Case Study: Instructor Notes (Word | PDF)
  • Description of the curriculum element based on Understanding by Design format. (Word)