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Materials & You: Bringing Materials Concepts to Your Life
An innitiative supported by the NSF DMR Ceramics - Grant 1055504
The objective of this program is to stimulate the interest of high-school and middle-schoool students in Materials Sciences by showing them how 'cool' they can be.
Traditionally, the field of Materials Science does not have many undergraduate students due to the limited access of K12 students to the concept Materials Science and Engineering. This program was initially designed to inspire students from two alternative schools, Einstein Education Center and Midtown High School in Woodland, CA, by performing IN-CLASS experiments that show amazing things about materials, and teach the importance of Materials Engineers to the development of new technologies. Though designed for those alternative schools, the material is suitable for any K12 environment. Kits for every activities were developed to be portable and using a limitted budget, making it suitable for any interested teacher and school.
The dynamics of the classes is the following: The professor (or grad student) gives an exciting lecture using cartoon-like slides and stop at certain points of the slide-show to perform the activities. Below we make available for download the slides used in each activity and the list of materials and equipments needed along with some background on the goals of each activity. The experiments are to be performed at specific points of the slides, as marked with a golden star.
This activity has been the focus of an article in the American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Oct/Nov 2013 edition, that can be read from: http://americanceramicsociety.org/bulletin/2013_pdf_files/octnov13/#/40/
A very brief description of the kits is found below, but you can also find detailed information on each one in the American Ceramic Society website at: http://ceramics.org/knowledge-center/materials-you-materials-science-demonstration-modules-by-ricardo-castro
    These kits were successfully used in the above mentioned Woodland high-schools with the support of the Yolo County Office of Education in 2011, and will be used in an updated version in 2012/13 and so on.
    NSF DMR CAREER 1055504 is greatly thanked for supporting this program.
Strong Materials: What is a strong material? In this activity we demonstrate that "strong" has actually different meanings. We show a set of metal, plastic and glass cups. We show how each of them is strong in certain way. While a person can drop a plastic cup and it does not break, but not a glass one, a person can stand on a single glass cup without breaking because of its resistance to compression. The metal mugs will not break either, but can release impact energy by deforming. Students must drop the mugs and break them themselves. Mugs are cheap and fun to break. Students can drop mugs from as high as they can go, but must drop inside a plastic box, so it collects the pieces. Remember, safety is priority. You can use physics description to relate the energy needed to break of deform and the height it's being dropped. In another experiment, we use paper clips (distributed among students) to show the concept of defects. By bending a clip you create defects, hardening the metal, that eventually becomes brittle and breaks. In the last activity, we use liquid nitrogen to freeze rubber and show how it can get brittle, just like the ceramic mug.
Here is a brief list of items needed for this activity: (1) Plastic mugs; (2) Ceramic mugs; (3) Aluminum mugs; (4) Big wood ruler to measure the height of bouncing mugs; (5) Plastic box - such as storage ones - with an open bottom. At the bottom, put a hard wood so the mug drop will not be dampened by the plastic bottom of the box; (6) Wine Glasses - a set of 6 will do; (7) Wood cutting board to work as a base to stand on the wine glasses - see picture!; (8) Paper clips (to be deformed until they get brittle; (9) Liquid nitrogen bottle; (10) Rubber piece.
Download slides for this activity here:
Smart Materials: What if a material can perform things other than what they look like they can? In this activity, we show things related to how light can be "created". We start with regular oil lamps, to explaing concepts of capilarity. We then build an incandencent light by coiling a steel wire and powering with a variac. We can see that the light comes with heat and oxidation, setting energy "waste" concepts, and why glass+Ar protections are required. We break a light bulb to prove is the same as the coil we did. We might need lenses to have seeing the bulb coil. We explain tungsten as well. We show how a fluorescent light works. We can bring fluorescent powders and a UV lamp (optional) to see them shinning. A big LED lamp is shown. We show how a LED lamp lights instantaneously at certain voltage, while the incandenscent light as an increasing shine, and related it to how it works. You need a DC power supply here. We show polarizing filters to explain how light can be controlled to creat LCD and LED TVs. Finally we bring a solar cell used to power a rechargable battery. These are cheap and can easily show the concept of a solar cell and how they're the opposite of a LED.
Here is a brief list of items needed for this activity: (1) Old oil lamp; (2) lighter; (3) piezoelectric rocks or pellets; (4) multimeter to measure voltage when hitting the piezo rocks; (5) Steel wires with thickness below 0.5mm; (6) a Variac; (7) a DC power supply; (8) LED lights (small or big ones with several diodes - these last are nicer, for sure); (9) Fluorecent powders, such as REDexcent; (10) Polarizing filter sheets; (11) a simple solar cell.
Download slides for this activity here:
Super Materials: What are supermaterials? What they can do for you? In this class we start with superconductors. We bring supermagnets to class and YBCO superconductor pellets. A superconductor Train is assembled in class, and the principles of levitation discussed (such as gravitational energy versus levitating energy). The train is quite simple: the track is formed by supermagnets glued on wood, and the train is a YBCO pellet wrapped in aluminum foil with a shape of a cup to hold liquid nitrogen (liquid nitrogen is fun by it self, bue we don't play with it in this class). After that, we show them what is a carbon fiber and how to use it to build cars, airplanes, etc. If you have parts to show as examples, that's perfect. Otherwise, get some epoxy resin, a sample of fiber and prepare yourself a piece for demonstration. Do not use epoxy in class, as they have fumes that are harzards. We show a memory shape alloy, NITINOL 40. This comes in wires, so you can force it shape as a coil by using a ceramic tube of the size of a pen as the "mold", tighting the nitinol wires with a metal clip and heating up to 400C for 15 min. This will give new 'memory' for the wire (do this in your lab, not in class). After coolind down, if you stretch the coil made of NITINOL, you can use a torch to get it back to the original shape (this is to do in class!). Then we explain what is going on with a phase transition schematics.
Here is a brief list of items needed for this activity: (1) YBCO pellets - you can get a full Superconductor educational kit online, it might be easier; (2) rare earth magnets - get some flat (2mm by 4mm) grade N52. They're more expensive, but the effect is much greater; (3) Liquid nitroge bottler; (4) Carbon fiber sample; (5) Nitinol ASTM F2063 wires;
Download slides for this activity here:

Affiliations

Peter A. Rock Thermochemistry Laboratory Our group is a part of this unique laboratory, check the website!
Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department.
Visit the new website for more information.

Interesting Links

Materials & You, a program developed with the Yolo County Office of Education
Teaching kids about materials. Click to learn more.
Professor Castro is a scientist with faith. Learn more about Castro's faith and how science can co-exist with God.