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Name: Justin
Status: educator
Grade: 9-12
Location: IL

Question: I am working on the scientific literacy of my Chemistry students in the fall. I have read James Trefil's recent book, Why Science? He makes a strong case for scientific literacy. As Materials Science becomes more important, I would like to add some aspects of this discipline into my 11th grade Chemistry class. Without knowing the basic literacies one should have in Materials Science, it is difficult to design instruction.

What are the central literacies a future voter should have in Materials Science?


The answer to this will depend on so many things (and tend to be a matter of opinion), so let me try to narrow down things a bit.

When I think Materials Science, I think of the most important materials in our society: metals, plastics, rubbers, ceramics, composites, cement, asphalt, glass. Just discussing the basic science on the structure-property relationships of these materials -for any one of these materials- can take a whole semester!

When I think "voter", I think: societal issues, headlines, hot-topics, economics, politics, law. A discussion of materials could easily stray from data and science to opinion and bully pulpit. I tend to stay away from these - choosing to focus on the science rather than the technology.

Being a polymer scientist with an emphasis in chemistry, I prefer to discuss materials from the point of view of the fundamental chemistry and physics that inform the general properties of such systems: structure-property relationships. What in the atomic structure of metals give it malleability? What in the atomic structure of polymers give it plasticity? How are these ductile properties different from plasticity? 3 feet of water, 6 inches of paper, 2 inches of lexan, 1 inch of steel can all stop a small caliber bullet - how do they do it? For that matter, kevlar, lexan and spectra fiber - all polymers, can stop bullets; but the mechanism of how they do it is all different. These kinds of discussion, in my opinion, make for a more science educated, science literate person -even if we do not talk about the societal issues of the day.

In short, basic materials science should lead to a solid understanding of structure-property relationships.

Hope that helped.

Greg (Roberto Gregorius)

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