February 10, 2012 by Emma.Foley
Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day was held Feb. 4 in the Bossone Research Center with over 1,300 people in attendance and demonstrations and lectures aiming to get the local community interested in materials science.
Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania and The Franklin Institute put on the free event.
“It’s just a really great day for everybody to just get to learn about science and engineering,” Dorilona Rose, operations manager for the materials science and engineering department, said.
Rose was one of the main organizers of the event, which aimed to get upcoming high school students to consider pursuing degrees in materials science and engineering. Both sponsor universities had tables with pamphlets highlighting their materials science and engineering programs. There was also an “Ask an Engineer” panel discussion where visitors could ask engineers about their careers.
“We’ve gotten just a lot of people both from within the city and outside of the city coming and really getting involved,” Rose said.
One of the most popular demos was also one of the messiest. Penn students set up a large container of a cornstarch and water mixture that was used to demonstrate that soft materials can be stronger than they first appear. The substance was a thick liquid when touched, but when it experienced a strong force, such as the force of someone walking on it, it got firm. Guests experienced its deceiving properties by taking off their shoes to stand and jump on the material.
A Drexel booth that drew huge crowds demonstrated how to make liquid nitrogen ice cream. Every half hour the booth churned out ice cream chilled by liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen boils at -321 degrees Fahrenheit, which allowed the ice cream to solidify almost instantly when it came in contact with the nitrogen. The samples of ice cream given out at the end of the presentation were big hits among the visitors.
Also at the event, Brittany Gallagher, a Drexel pre-junior materials science and engineering major, ran a card game that explained how small things on the nanoscale are.
“This is a game for kids, and we have different cards that have pictures of things that incorporate nanotechnology, and then they have to find it on the I-spy board,” she said. “We have these pictures to give them an idea of what nano actually is because lots of them don’t really understand because you can’t see it with your own eyes.”
This was the second year of Philly Materials Day, which began after the universities and The Franklin Institute received a grant as part of a promotion for NOVA’s “Making Stuff,” a four-part television series on materials science research and what it means for the technology of the future. Two of the episodes played during this year’s event: “Making Stuff: Smarter” and “Making Stuff: Smaller.”
“It started as just being a one-time thing because we had this grant. And then after last year’s Philly Materials Day, both departments had said that this was too good to just do it once; we have to do it again,” Rose explained.
Materials Day had been a joint Penn-Drexel partnership from the very beginning.
“The collaboration with Penn and The Franklin Institute has been really valuable. To have those connections and to kind of deepen that relationship a little bit [has helped] because there wasn’t anything,” she said. “[The] faculty [has done] some research with people from Penn, but this was the first time it was on a department-to-department level.”
Many of the booths were run by Drexel and Penn students.
Elizabeth Daugherty, a sophomore architectural engineering major, said the event “demonstrated Drexel’s enthusiasm for expanding knowledge to the youth of Philadelphia.”
The centerpiece of the 22 demos was a giant carbon nanotube constructed out of balloons that hung from the roof of Bossone. Anyone who visited eight or more of the tables got a special prize, and all attendees were automatically entered into a raffle with hourly prize drawings.