November 2021: We hosted an activity with the Guirronet group and Statt group as part of the St. Elmo Brady Academy, an outreach program that encourages middle school youth from underserved backgrounds to pursue STEM careers. We showcased both how difficult it is to source the raw materials required for making plastic and the diminishing returns of recycling efforts. First, the students “mined” for coal (bolts) and oil (paperclips) amongst tubs full of rocks. Next, they pretended to ship the coal to the power plant and used the remaining crude oil to first perform separations and then built polymers by stringing together their paper clips. Then they exchanged their paperclips for playdough to compare the processes of molding and extruding.
June 18, 2018: We hosted an activity with the Guirronet group for Girl’s Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science (GAMES) camp for the fourth year! The students did hands-on experiments with rubber-bands along with simulations of the system to understand properties of thermoelastic polymers, and also synthesized polymer gels. The group had a blast introducing young minds to the exciting world of polymers and computation!
August 5, 2017: We partnered with ENVISION to host a polymer outreach event at the Urbana Farmer’s market. Kids learned about how polymers are made with our interactive simulations. They also saw how different polymers can have specific properties that make them useful for certain applications, like sodium polyacrylate adsorbing water. Kids also got to see polymer extrusion with hot glue guns and letter molds!
We are excited to partner with ENVISION, a graduate student organization focused on K-12 outreach, to help organize and plan polymer outreach!
June 20,2017: We hosted an activity with the Guirronet group for Girl’s Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science (GAMES) camp for the third year! The students did hands-on experiments with rubber-bands along with simulations of the system to understand properties of thermoelastic polymers!
October 22, 2016: Students in the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy program came to campus to learn about polymers from the Sing and Guirronet groups!
June 21, 2016: We partnered with the Guirronet group to help with the Girl’s Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science (GAMES) camp for the second year! The girls did polymer experiments and simulations to see how they can be used cooperatively to understand polymer properties.
November 3rd, 7th, 2015: Students at Garden Hills Elementary School learn about polymers and recycling from the Sing and Guirronet groups!
July 18th, 2015: Our work on the GAMES camp is mentioned in the News-Gazette!
July 17th, 2015: The Girl’s Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science (GAMES) camp was a big success. We let the participants explore the programs developed in our group (gelation, copolymerization, etc.) in conjunction with experiments developed by Damien Guironnet’s group. The girls were exposed to situations where experiment and computation can be used hand-in-hand to understand phenomena in polymer physics.
May 19th, 2015: The outreach team has developed a set of simulation tools to help in upcoming outreach activities. Easy-to-use programs illustrate concepts such as gelation, copolymerization, and single-chain elasticity. See the new computational outreach page for public copies of these apps! Special thanks to Michael Marvin, who is the primary developer.
April 9th,16th, 2015: Charles, Damien, and the rest of the Sing and Guironnet groups work with young scientists to learn about polymer properties at the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy!
March 20th, 2015: Damien, Dylan, and Mithun run through the second day of the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy, while the rest of the Sing and Guironnet groups provides constructive comments.
February 13th, 2015: Damien discusses ways to teach polymers, while Michael, Kate, and Tyler play with paperclip ‘polymers’.
February 12th, 2015: In run-throughs for the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy event, the Sing group found cat-shaped paperclip ‘monomers’. Prof. Sing: “Well, I guess that polymer is made using cat-ionic polymerization!” Michael: “It’s probably also living.”
January 16th, 2015: We have set the agenda for a series of after-school events, where we have hands-on experiences for the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy. In the above picture, Tyler Lytle from the Sing group is describing how we can take the participants through the ‘life cycle’ of a plastic that they use in their everyday life.
December 5th, 2015: First stages of planning for the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy in April. We are working out how to present the concept of plastics, polymers, and recycling to elementary-age students in an after school program. In the above picture, we are listening to some of Prof. Guironnet’s ideas!