POLYMER day: Outreach experiments for high school students

Jeffrey M. Ting, Ralm G. Ricarte, Deborah K. Schneiderman, Stacey A. Saba, Yaming Jiang, Marc A. Hillmyer, Frank S. Bates, Theresa M. Reineke, Christopher W. Macosko, Timothy P. Lodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We present a collection of hands-on experiments that collectively teach precollege students fundamental concepts of polymer synthesis and characterization. These interactive experiments are performed annually as part of an all-day outreach event for high school students that can inform the development of ongoing polymer education efforts in a university setting. The Advanced Polymer Synthesis experiment aims to introduce broad concepts of polymer synthesis. Techniques such as ring-opening polymerization are explained and demonstrated. The Block Polymer Micellization experiment extends this idea to block polymers for drug delivery applications. Students are taught the idea of self-Assembly and prepare micelles to encapsulate β-carotene in water with flash nanoprecipitation. In terms of materials characterization, the vast physical properties space of polymers is explored. The Happy-Sad Spheres experiment provides an interactive demonstration of the glass transition temperature, while the Polymer Swelling/Rheology experiment features the interesting properties of cross-linked and entangled polymers. Evaluation surveys showed positive feedback from students in learning polymer concepts through this program. Overall, the simple principles taught by these outreach experiments can be easily incorporated into modern laboratory curricula with broad implications for disseminating public knowledge and promoting continued interest in polymer science and engineering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1629-1638
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 14 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of many educators in the polymer science and engineering community for their ideas as sources of inspiration for the current renditions of these experiments. We thank Phil Engen and Kelsi Klaers for their involvement in coordinating Polymer Day. We thank Anatolii A. Purchel for assisting with the photography of the Block Polymer Micellization experiment. We also thank the past and present graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. Every year these instructors reevaluate the protocols as a team and lead the experiments with enthusiasm toward improving the quality of the experiments and teaching lessons. Polymer Day is financially supported by the UMN MRSEC Program under Award DMR-1420013.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc.


  • Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives
  • High School/Introductory Chemistry
  • Materials Science
  • Micelles
  • Polymer Chemistry
  • Polymerization
  • Public Understanding/Outreach
  • Synthesis

How much support was provided by MRSEC?

  • Primary

Reporting period for MRSEC

  • Period 3

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