This month Binghamton University will participate in a national outreach program led by PBS to educate people about the science behind the “stuff.”
The launch is in conjunction with the premiere of a new four-part series on PBS called “Making Stuff,” which explains materials science — the study of what everything around us is made of and how materials are put together, used, changed and improved.
The events that are scheduled to take place in Binghamton will be led by both faculty and students.
M. Stan Whittingham, professor of chemistry, materials science and engineering at BU, has brought the program to the University. He leads the student chapters of the Materials Research Society throughout the United States, a group that was involved in creating the “Making Stuff” series.
“I was approached as to whether I would be interested in partnering and getting the MRS student chapter involved,” Whittingham said. “We wrote a proposal to WBGH, the PBS station that runs NOVA, which was formally supported by President Lois DeFleur.”
It was accepted in the summer of 2010, as the series was originally scheduled to run in the fall of 2010.
Whittingham’s lecture at the Lost Dog Café past Tuesday was one of the opening events of the campaign. He spoke about energy and energy storage and then held a question-and-answer session.
His motivation to involve the Binghamton community in the campaign stemmed from a desire to educate people about materials science.
“The public needs to become more scientifically literate so they can make good decisions,” Whittingham said. “Everyone deals with materials, and so it impacts everyone every day.”
Gene Nolis, a junior majoring in chemistry and member of the MRS student chapter in Binghamton, agreed.
“Materials science is a critical field for future generations because of our increasing dependence on wireless devices, alternative energy sources and energy storage, stronger materials, medical breakthroughs, forensics and the overall down-sizing of most devices,” Nolis said.
Nolis will be running programs at the Oakdale Mall and Roberson Museum with other members of the chapter and the Chemistry Club.
“My colleagues and I will be performing live demonstrations that demonstrate how materials science is making materials smaller, stronger, cleaner and smarter,” Nolis said. Smaller, stronger, cleaner and smarter are the four themes of the “Making Stuff” series.
Emily Obuya, a fourth-year materials and inorganic chemistry doctoral candidate, said the events have been designed to be easily relatable.
“There will be a series of experiments that people can identify with and explain the role of materials science and chemistry in an easy, fun and exciting way,” Obuya said.
In addition, activities at the Science Olympiad Regionals competition hosted by BU will promote “Making Stuff” at a higher level. One presentation will use a high-temperature superconductor to demonstrate the loss of electrical resistance and magnetic levitation that occurs in such systems.
Nolis hopes the efforts through the outreach program will have beneficial effects.
“We hope to increase awareness of materials science and how it is positively affecting our lives, even here in Binghamton,” Nolis said.
Demonstrations will take place on Jan. 29 at the Oakdale Mall and on Feb. 5 at the Roberson Museum.