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Polymers in the Classroom: Developing a Summer Workshop for High School Science Teachers (Resource Exchange)

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

PCEE Resource Exchange

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Alex Vincent Jannini Syracuse University

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Alex Jannini is a third-year PhD student at Syracuse University in the Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Department. His current research consists of developing tough and elastic double network hydrogels that have adhesive, self-healing, and biomimetic properties. His Master's research focused on implementing pharmaceutical engineering concepts into lab-based, introductory engineering courses. He has had experience in the classroom as an adjunct professor at Rowan University. In this role, he helped develop a series of experiments for a freshman engineering course that explored introductory engineering concepts through chocolate manufacturing, and another series of experiments involving dissolvable thin films for a similar course. Alex is also the president of the Syracuse University Chapter of ASEE, and has been working diligently with his executive board to provide seminars and workshops for their fellow graduate students. Alex's plans upon graduation involve becoming a professor or lecturer, specifically at a primarily undergraduate institution.

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Shelby Buffington Syracuse University

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James H. Henderson Syracuse University


Sally B. Mitchell Rye High School, New York

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Sally Mitchell is a STEM Master Teacher in the State of New York and teaches chemistry and physics at Rye High School, Rye, NY. She served as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow in the Department of Energy, Office of Science in Washington, DC. She earned her Bachelor of Science degrees in chemistry and biology and her Master of Science degree in chemical education at Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.

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As polymer science continues to be a strong area of research in STEM fields, there is a lack of high school students who have had exposure to this area during their coursework. This can lead to students not understanding the current state of STEM research or having little interest in pursuing these majors. To help introduce polymer science to high schools in New York State (NYS), a two-day summer workshop was developed for high school STEM teachers. Nine teachers from NYS were presented with several laboratory experiments and demonstrations designed to introduce polymer science to students. The labs were developed so that the materials were inexpensive and required little to no specialty products. Experiments included introductions to the chemical composition of polymers and how polymers with the same repeating unit can have different mechanical properties. A challenge problem was then given to the participants, in which they had to determine how to separate different recyclable materials based on their chemical and physical properties. Demonstrations were also shown to the participants to let them know about some of the current research being conducted at the university, including an introduction into light-activated shape memory polymers, and a simple procedure that can be used to make silver nanoparticles. Discussions were held after each experiment or demonstration to allow teachers to talk amongst one another about the strengths of the activities, how they could be edited, and how they could be introduced into the already existing curriculum. Assessment of the workshop was gathered, with overall positive reviews being received. Taking feedback from the participants, the itinerary of the workshop will be changed to present the experiments in a way that could be easily developed as a course module, with demonstrations being highlighted later in the program.

Jannini, A. V., & Buffington, S., & Henderson, J. H., & Mitchell, S. B. (2018, June), Polymers in the Classroom: Developing a Summer Workshop for High School Science Teachers (Resource Exchange) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah.

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