Tapping into the Future

ASTM Supports Students Incorporating Standards in Academic Work

Students who emerge from college or university with an understanding of the role of standards in R&D, product design, securing public health and safety, attaining market access and complying with regulations are one step ahead of fellow graduates when they enter the job market.

In recent years, ASTM International has sought to enable this outcome through programs that make it easier for professors to include standards in their curricula and for students to understand the complex and critical world of standards development and utilization. This effort was reinforced by the inclusion, in the late 1990s, of standards and other “realistic constraints” as required elements of senior capstone design projects at schools adhering to requirements of ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

Recognizing the value of this, ASTM International instituted project grant awards in 2010 — monetary awards that support students conducting senior or graduate design projects that contain an ASTM standards component. Ten grants have been given in the last three years, and they have resulted in capstone projects that reflect the diversity of ASTM standards as much as the ingenuity of the recipients.

With the assistance of the ASTM grants, projects have been completed on carbon fiber bicycle forks, computer workstation ergonomics, pharmaceuticals, solar cook stoves and composite pistons for use in pressurized cylinder applications. As of this writing, more are under way in areas as varied as medical devices and building materials.

In addition to project grants, ASTM International also awards scholarships of $10,000 to as many as four graduate students per year who have shown interest or involvement in ASTM standards. Winners have studied areas such as mechanical testing, biomechanics, fatigue and fracture, and wood-plastic composites. An ASTM task group is currently evaluating 30 applications for 2013.

Bringing knowledge from these and many other forms of academic outreach and support, ASTM International participates with other standards developers, corporations, and colleges and universities on the American National Standards Institute’s Committee on Education. The ANSI COE has recommended additional practices that ABET-accredited schools can use to help students better understand the value and use of standards in today’s professional environment. An ANSI position paper on the role of technical standards in engineering, technology and computing programs suggests further integrating standards into ETC programs in the following ways:

  • By reference, indicating the subject is covered in a technical standard;
  • By introducing the principal technical characteristics of a standard;
  • By direct use of a published standard; or
  • By regular use and reference to technical standards in large-scale projects.

“The more students are exposed to standards in concept and in practice,” says James Olshefsky, ASTM International director of external relations, “the more sophistication they will have as employees and entrepreneurs in understanding standards as technical and strategic business tools.”

For more information about any aspect of ASTM International’s academic outreach program, check the ASTM International Campus, or contact Olshefsky (phone: 610-832-9714).

This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.