Sixty-six sophomores and juniors from five Massachusetts high schools attended the first annual Boston-based ASM Materials Camp at Boston University on May 14. Sponsored by the New England Chapters of ASM International: the Materials Information Society, the College of Engineering and the College’s Division of Materials Science & Engineering, the daylong event featured talks and interactive demonstrations at the BU Photonics Center and the Engineering Manufacturing Building and Annex, a lunchtime Q&A session with BU students and industry professionals, and tours of College of Engineering undergraduate labs led by College Dean’s Hosts and Inspiration Ambassadors.
To kick off the event, MSE Division Head/Professor David Bishop delivered a PowerPoint presentation on what materials scientists and engineers do and how it impacts society.
“We try to understand the fundamentals of how and why things work and apply them to make people’s lives better,” said Bishop. “At the end of the day if we’ve succeeded, people have clean water to drink, live longer, avoid disease and have richer, more interesting, more connected lives.”
Bishop showcased several interdisciplinary materials science and engineering projects underway at the College of Engineering aimed at improving the quality of life. Examples included novel pollution-free materials processing techniques, high-speed computers that exploit optical fibers, self-cleaning solar panels and ultraviolet LEDs that purify water.
“This is not like going to the museum and seeing the Mona Lisa and saying ‘I could never paint that painting,’” Bishop told the high school students. “Each and every one of you, if you want to, can do this kind of work.”
In that spirit, eight groups of eight or nine students followed BU graduate student guides to a series of eight 30-minute interactive modules on materials science and engineering presented by ASM members from local industries and BU graduate students primarily from the MSE Division but representing all College of Engineering departments and divisions. The modules focused on materials identification, scanning electron microscopy, hydrogels for medical applications, shape memory alloys, polymers, plastic deformation, cryogenic phenomena and corrosion.
In a module on hydrogels for medical applications, Jeff Kablik, a mechanical engineer with the Genzyme Corporation, explained how physicians use these highly absorbent, flexible, biocompatible materials for everything from sustained release drug delivery implants to tissue engineering scaffolds to sealants that prevent air leaks and accelerate healing after heart, brain or lung surgery. After demonstrating how to use an applicator to direct hydrogel sealant to incisions on a pig lung, Kablik gave each student a turn.
Callum Lafrance, a sophomore from Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton, found this module particularly relevant to his budding career plans.
“There were a lot of things that I got from this that I would like to put into my own research,” said LaFrance. “We talked about hydrogels being used to promote stem cell growth, and that’s what I’d like to work with in regenerative medicine.”
In a module on shape memory alloys, Jim Scutti, technical manager for product development at Atrium Medical Corp., and MSE graduate students Fan Fan and Shreyas Tanksale demonstrated how a coiled spring, once stretched, will shrink back to its original shape when heated by a blow dryer or even one’s breath. As they passed springs around the room so students could try it out for themselves, Scutti noted how many widely-used medical devices, including stents that restore flood flow to clogged arteries, rely on flexible materials that expand to their original shape after contracting within a constrained space.
“This showed how materials can help save people’s lives and how engineering can make a huge impact,” said Kimberly Huynh, a sophomore at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science in Boston.