Sandia LabNews

ASM holds third annual materials camp for teachers

ASM holds third annual materials camp for teachers

Pots simmer, expanding foam creeps over the side of a paper cup, and Borax combines with polyvinyl alcohol to make slime. It is polymer day at the American Society for Materials International (ASM) Albuquerque Materials Camp where teachers are playing students.

From June 26-July 1 at Eldorado High School, 30 high school teachers from New Mexico and across the nation had a chance to experiment hands-on with materials science.

Sandians J. Bruce Kelley (6245) and Don Susan (1813), chairs of the Albuquerque ASM chapter, spearheaded the organizational aspects.

“By teaching the teachers we can reach more kids,” says Bruce. “The workshop organizers do this because they have hearts for teaching science to the next generation.”

Their passion for science includes saving chemistry from a bad rap.

“A lot of students say they hated chemistry,” says Pat Duda of Cibola High. “They ask, ‘When will I ever need this? How is it relevant?’” Duda, one of three local teachers conducting the workshop, wanted to involve students in materials science technology and answer those questions.

Under the direction of ASM members, Duda and fellow teachers Margaret Showalter of Eldorado High and Ellen Loehman of Jefferson Middle School led experiments. Other Sandians giving presentations included retiree Ken Eckelmeyer, who gave the opening talks, Mike Hessheimer (6864) on testing nuclear reactor containment structures, Rob Sorenson (6142) on corrosion on basic electrochemistry, Jill Glass (1825) on glass and ceramics, and Jim Aubert (1821) on polymer structure and properties.

“Sandia gives depth and a link to how techniques are used,” says teacher Donna Jernigan of Albuquerque High.

After the talks and demonstrations, participating teachers pulled on gloves to explore topics themselves.

“We look at the macroscopic properties to see what on the microscopic and atomic scale corresponds,” says Loehman. Each day focused on one of four main division: metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites. To learn about raku on ceramics day, participants bisque-fired clay, applied glaze containing metal oxides, and again fired the clay to trigger an oxidation-reduction reaction.

“I have been so excited by using everyday items to experience chemistry,” says Advanced Placement chemistry teacher Dolores Salazar. She plans to incorporate the camp’s labs, ideas, and philosophy into her Rio Grande High School classes. In addition to chemistry teachers, the camp attracted Explora staff and an inclusion/special education teacher.

Lockheed Martin/Sandia, the National Science Foundation, and ASM’s Los Alamos and Albuquerque chapters sponsored the camp. All teachers received a full scholarship to cover tuition, supplies, and room and board.

Al Romig, Sandia Deputy Director for Integrated Technology Programs who has led Lockheed Martin/Sandia’s financial support for each of the local workshop’s three years, says, “The energy and passion these teachers already had was remarkable. Our goal was to enhance this — to help teachers take science and wrap it up in something students can touch in everyday life, and to help students see the materials components in sports, cars, airplanes, electronics, and biomaterials.”

“The camp appears to be helping teachers interest the students in careers in materials science and engineering,” he says. “We’re gratified that as one result of the camp, APS has recently approved a high school materials course for its students.”

This coming school year, more than 600 high school students plan to take the course, which has been developed by ASM and Sandia members, APS teachers, and various university professors based on their experiences in previous years’ camps. The course is rigorous and meets standards, the teachers emphasize, but has a different focus. As the first APS materials science course, it is one of only a few in the country. Eleven APS teachers who will be teaching the course attended the workshop.

“In a regular chemistry course, you’re concerned about all the traditional things such as stoichiometry and gas laws. Here, your approach is a little different,” says Chris Hilleary, who will teach the new course at Sandia High. “Materials science teachers need to strike a balance in their classroom and be sure to cover the concepts and address standards to understand the chemistry behind what they’re doing.” He hopes the new course will engage different kinds of learners.