Grad students take MSE lessons to middle school classroom

Grad students take MSE lessons to middle school classroom

Aaron Gladstein explains a metal casting activity to Forsythe eighth graders.

On February 5 and 6, MSE Outreach (comprised of 15 MSE graduate students) ventured across town to Forsythe Middle School to introduce more than 200 eighth graders to basic materials science and engineering concepts. 

 “We wanted to expose middle school students to what materials science is and why it's something they should consider getting into, to show them the normal objects that they interact with daily can be complex and cool, and to get them excited about science in general,” explained PhD precandidate Ben Swerdlow.

MSE students started each class with a general presentation on broad classifications of materials (metals, ceramics, polymers), materials characterization (mainly microscopy), and the design elements of metals casting. They then divided the room into two groups – one where they made a metal casting a small object (star, heart, stick figure, etc.) to keep, and the other where they observed scanning electron microscope (SEM) images of a light bulb filament and a metal sample in the department's portable SEM. 

“We chose these lessons and activities because they provide a strong basis for what materials scientists do every day, plus they encourage critical thinking about design decisions and about how microscoping features affect macroscale properties,” said Swerdlow.

MSE Outreach’s efforts received an A+ from Forsythe science teacher Margaret Caird Raupp: 

 “The MSE students were very knowledgeable in their studies and excited to share what they are working on with my students,” said Raupp. “They were gracious, kind and relatable. They explained their lessons in terms that middle schoolers could understand. They breathed new life into science in our classroom.

“Connecting in-school learning to what graduate students are working on makes for a stronger foundation of science and engineering understanding,” Raupp added. “It sparked interest in students as they initially thought that it would 'be boring' but turned out to be 'pretty cool!' Meeting and working with U-M students also reinforces that we are not an isolated system; it is important for teens to know that what they practice and learn now can really be useful and on the cutting-edge in just a few short years.”

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