Innovative Summer Camp Teaches Teachers about Materials

Teachers from across the country recently gathered at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to participate in an advanced ASM Materials Education Foundation workshop, known as “Materials Camp” for teachers. These specialized camps, which LIFT supports, are designed to introduce teachers to hands-on activities that make math and science principles more exciting and accessible to their students. Workshop attendees then use these activities in their classrooms to show how textbook science and math concepts relate to everyday materials.

Because materials science is an interdisciplinary field, activities can be integrated in standard courses such as chemistry, physics, and industrial technology, or used as the foundation of a materials science elective. Most of the projects and experiments do not require special equipment or costly supplies.

“We want to expose teachers to new activities and new ways of looking at materials science so they can take those ideas back to their classrooms,” says Nichol Campana, director of ASM’s Materials Education Foundation. “If we can get the teachers excited about materials and STEM, then they can get their students excited.”

In Ann Arbor, approximately 25 teachers from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and as far away as Washington took part in the five-day camp. Leading the workshop were three experienced master teachers who share not only the curriculum content, but also practical tips for teaching the theory and lab activities based on their experience teaching materials science at the high school level.
Throughout the weeklong camp, teachers work with metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites, and develop a greater appreciation for the importance those materials in manufacturing.

Some of the exercises the teachers worked on at U-M included:

  • Demonstrating crystal formation from solutions, including simulating the tin whisker formation that has caused satellite failures.
  • Metal casting and heat treating.
  • Glassmaking, ranging from melting Jolly Rancher candies to formulating borosilicate glass from sand and other raw materials.
  • LIFT supported lab activities ranging from the function of automotive B-pillars, which protect occupants in T-bone crashes, to hands-on engineering challenges to create and test beams made of a variety of materials. The goal of the beam labs was to apply lightweighting design methods to determine which concepts have the best stiffness to weight ratio.

Dr. Peggy Jones, transmission and electrification materials engineer – shafts, General Motors Global Propulsion Systems, helped introduce teachers to the activities and engineering concepts at the camp while providing insight on how the projects relate to real-world applications.

“When we can show teachers how what they are learning applies to the real world of design, engineering, and manufacturing, it helps the light bulbs go on and they get it,” explains Jones. “By connecting with these groups of teachers, we can connect with hundreds of students through them. That impact is immeasurable and critical for manufacturing going forward.”
More information on the camps, including a schedule and curriculum examples, can be found here.