Pikesville, MD (March, 2017)
Students at Pikesville High School saw science in a new way with some help from the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. Nick Hammond, Assistant Director and Associate Vice President for Economic Development, Lindsay D’Ambrosio, who runs IMET’s business incubator Harbor Launch, and a team representing IMET ran the Chemistry station at the Junior Achievement of Central Maryland’s STEM Summit on Wednesday, April 5. This is the second year IMET ran a station at the summit as part of continued outreach efforts. “There were about 200 students,” D’Ambrosio said. “It’s a really great way to be part of 200 students’ first hands-on experience with science.”
When the students arrived at their station, they donned protective gloves and safety glasses. Split up in groups of six, the students each had a turn conducting a polyurethane foam experiment. First, they measured and mixed two liquids together inside a latex glove. Then watched as the liquids became a foam and expanded to 30 times its original size. “When you saw their eyes, they were surprised,” D’Ambrosio said. “Their discovery is the best part.” They were shocked by the sight and again by touching the foam, which turns into a solid material that is polyurethane and became hot, indicating an exothermic reaction. There are many forms of polyurethane, such as fibers, coatings, elastomers, flexible foams, and rigid foams. The students were creating a rigid polyurethane foam like that used in furniture, packaging, insulation, flotation devices and similar items.
The students wrote their name on their gloves to take home as a souvenir from the science experiment. The quick lesson was a good introduction to show the students what science looks like. “It’s exposure to science—and what it’s like to do science—and not just as a subject in school,” D’Ambrosio said.