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U.Va. Engineering Students Bring Materials Science Lessons to Kids at Virginia Discovery Museum

January 12, 2011 — The University of Virginia's Department of Materials Science and Engineering Student Chapter of the Materials Research Society was one of 15 university chapters nationwide awarded $6,000 grants in association with Public Broadcasting Service's "NOVA" program to raise public awareness about the field.

In anticipation of its upcoming four-part materials science series, "Making Stuff," NOVA sent out a challenge to MRS chapters across the country: How will you reach out to at least 2,000 people in the local community in advance of the program and raise awareness of materials science? The four parts of the series, which debuts Jan. 19, are titled "Smarter," "Stronger," "Smaller" and "Cleaner."

In response to the challenge, U.Va. graduate engineering students will visit the Virginia Discovery Museum on three occasions in January to lead interactive demonstrations for children, and to build giant models of carbon nanotubes using balloons.

The students will visit the museum, located on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, on Jan. 22 and 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, and on Jan. 25, from 2 to 5 p.m.

They expect to reach hundreds of youngsters in the community and get them hooked on science and engineering said Chris Petz, a Ph.D. student in the department and MRS chapter vice president.

This project and a science fair on Jan. 20 that enlists area high school students in developing innovative materials to improve energy efficiency and structural strength in the buildings and systems that make up U.Va.'s Academical Village are how the U.Va. MRS chapter is using its NOVA grant.

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