At IKV, students work on current research topics: they study the mechanical properties of films used for flexible and supple electrical devices, they work on new materials for the injection moulding of elastic foams, or on the development of automated processes for the production of fibre composite components in the aviation and automotive industries. More than 70 work groups are engaged on research into fascinating issues related to plastics at the Institute – and these give rise to numerous topics for students’ scientific papers, taking in a great variety of contents and methods and all having a very close bearing on the current challenges encountered in plastics technology.
On the bachelor’s degree course for Mechanical Engineering specialising in plastics technology, students are required to submit three papers: research laboratory, project work and a bachelor’s dissertation. On the bachelor’s course for Business Administration & Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) specialising in plastics technology, students are only required to submit a bachelor’s dissertation. Students on the Business Administration & Engineering course do, however, have the option of compiling a research laboratory paper and having this work recognised as a compulsory elective subject.
All papers compiled at IKV have a close bearing on the current research at the Institute or on urgent problems from industry. Depending on the problem involved, they will be experimental, theoretical or design-related in nature. The wide range of topics and methods involved means that students can select and carry out their IKV research project so that it is commensurate with their specific interests and talents.
Comprehensive supervision by a member of the IKV’s scientific staff ensures that the student’s research project is closely linked to the projects being handled by the work group and facilitates the student’s introduction to scientific work. Excellently equipped laboratories and pilot plants are available at IKV for students’ practical experiments.
On the Mechanical Engineering course at RWTH Aachen, the research laboratory is only available to those studying plastics and textile technology. The research laboratory gives students the opportunity at an early stage – in the 5th semester already – to gain experience in generating, interpreting, documenting and imparting their own scientific findings.
Compared with project work and the bachelor’s dissertation, the problems to be worked on in the research laboratory are less extensive and are focused particularly on organisation and communication. All the work stages are intensively prepared by IKV and ITA (Institute of Textile Technology) in seminars and accompanied by feedback processes. In this way, students not only work on an actual scientific problem but are also trained in and acquire experience in the fields of project management, the design of experiments and presentation.
Project work generally takes place in the 6th semester. Students need to have acquired at least 90 credit points before they can apply. Project work is always conducted in groups of two to five people. This boosts the student’s ability to work in a team and also promotes both group organisation and self-organisation.
At the start of work on the project a kick-off meeting is held with the IKV staff member supervising the project. At this meeting, the topic, work stages and distribution of the work is discussed. While work is being conducted on the project, good coordination and clearly defined work packages are important for the team members, because it is the individual results achieved by each member that are graded at the end.
The bachelor’s dissertation is the final piece of work for the bachelor’s degree course and is generally written in the 7th semester of study. As the most extensive piece of scientific work for the bachelor’s degree course, it gives students the opportunity to obtain detailed insight into a particular area of plastics processing and to participate in finding a solution to a problem of scientific and practical relevance. It thus constitutes a focal point at the end of the bachelor’s course and provides graduates with the detailed specialist knowledge and method competence they require when they subsequently embark on their career.
In the same way as for the bachelor’s course, students on the master’s course are also required to submit an extensive scientific paper. Integrated in a work group at IKV, students tackle a current research topic largely under their own responsibility. In compiling their scientific paper, which marks the final stage of their course, students can selectively draw on and apply the knowledge they have acquired during their studies and the experience obtained in their practical exercises and training periods.
The subject for the master’s thesis is determined at the outset with the IKV staff member supervising the work. The time allowed for writing the thesis is 22 weeks (one semester). Specific problems from a wide range of current research projects are available as topics. In many cases, students can also select topics that are commensurate with their own ideas and interests in respect of their subsequent choice of career. In this way, graduates not only benefit from a particularly well-founded and broad-based education on all aspects of plastics technology but also acquire expert knowledge in a specific field.