What do polymer engineers really do?


To give students a clear idea of engineering career possibilities, showing what an engineer does is much more effective than telling. Eleven high school teachers from Akron and Canton are teaming up with University of Akron professors for the next three summers to conduct polymer engineering research and take their discoveries back to their classrooms.

“The program is going to give teachers an opportunity to participate in real-world research in order to connect what they teach in their classrooms to what future careersstudents might have,” says program co-principal investigator Dr. Carin Helfer, assistant director of science education outreach for the UA Akron Global Polymer Academy.

Working on independent research projects that, for example, explore how polymers might be used to solve water purification issues or to improve advanced energy systems, the teachers will be able to translate their newfound engineering knowledge, experience and enthusiasm into lesson plans.

“The big goal is to impact students so they get excited about science and engineering,” says Dr. Kevin Cavicchi, associate professor of polymer engineering.

Thanks to a $390,921 National Science Foundation award, the teachers will work with faculty members, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and one another as a community of learners. This summer’s eight-week program begins June 18, during which teachers and faculty members will review the basics of independent laboratory research, such as data management, notebook keeping, library resources and safety — as well as the basics of polymers, such as properties, processing, testing and characterizations.

“At the end of the summer, a workshop will be held to disseminate the results of the program to a broader, K-12 teacher community,” Cavicchi says.


Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or henryd@uakron.edu.