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Science & Technology - Campus & Community

Drexel Hosts 5th Hands-On Philly Materials Day

February 2, 2015

Current Drexel post-doctoral researcher, then PhD candidate Babak Anasori gives a one-on-one materials science demonstration to an interested young boy.
Current Drexel post-doctoral researcher, then PhD candidate Babak Anasori gives a one-on-one materials science demonstration to an interested young boy.

For doctoral candidate Katie Van Aken, it’s all about inspiration.

“When I was a kid, my science teacher made science look cool and made me want to pursue it as a career,” Van Aken said. “If I can do that for just one kid, then it’s a success.”

Van Aken is one of the Drexel graduate students who will be demonstrating physical principles of materials Saturday at Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day, an event hosted at Drexel’s Bossone Research Enterprise Center. Designed to generate hands-on interest in the science and study of “stuff,” it’s open to the public and will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Expect demonstrations that include running across liquids, bending glass, making ice cream instantly and building your own robot.

“Many people have never heard of materials science and engineering and we want them to walk away enthusiastic about the field and with the knowledge that it impacts our lives on a daily basis,” said Professor Michele Marcolongo, PhD, head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Drexel and an organizer of Philly Materials Day.

In addition to Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania, Franklin Institute and Chemical Heritage Foundation will also send representatives for the demonstrations.

A group of children are wowed by a demonstration at a past Philly Materials Day.
A group of children are wowed by a demonstration at a past Philly Materials Day.

Van Aken and fellow graduate student Darin Tallman have done similar outreach in the past.

“We actually started a program last winter called Science Saturdays where we invite middle school and high school kids to Drexel to do some hands-on activities relating to the topics they learn about in their science classes,” Van Aken said. “We had a handful of activities for the kids to both do and see us do to illustrate the concept we were teaching.”

For the fifth annual Philly Materials Day (all have been held at Drexel), five key themes have been established: communication, earth, energy, health and sports.

“We really wanted to change up our hands-on demos,” said Professor Christopher Weyant, PhD, who organized the demonstrations. “We settled on this year’s themes because these are things that impact people directly on a daily basis and are terms the general public is familiar with.”

Among Weyant’s favorite demonstrations are the instant ice cream, and another that falls under the health theme.

“A new demo on how tiny, nano-sized gold particles are providing new approaches to cancer therapy will show how materials directly impact people’s lives,” he said.

With 1,500 expected to come out for Philly Materials Day, Van Aken knows she’ll be reaching out to future scientists.

“Some kids are looking for that one person to inspire and excite them about science and innovation,” she said. “Kids these days will be solving the science problems of the future so it’s important to inspire them now.”