Finally, as this is the first materials course the students take in their materials programs, and their only materials course in first year (the other courses are maths, physics, chemistry, etc.), we place special emphasis on building community and helping the students to make friends.
We host pizza lunches and trivia sessions which are scheduled in the students timetables – i.e. they are not optional extras, but an intrinsic part of the course.
In the first class, I share with the students a bit of my personal story – my career path and hobbies – and ask them to share a bit about themselves with each other. I think this emphasis on building friendships and social networks carries across to enhance the in-class interaction, and vice versa.