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Marissa Reigel, ACerS member and Savannah River National Lab engineer, introduces students to ceramics and glass at the National Science Fair in Washington, D.C. last week. (Credit: ACerS)

The American Ceramic Society participated in the 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington D.C., Friday, April 25-27. ACerS staff along with ACerS member Marissa Reigel, and student volunteers David Shahin, Elise Poerschke, and Cory Bomberger, met fair attendees at the ACerS booth. The festival attracted more than 325,000 students, parents, and teachers with more than 3,000 hands-on activities and 150-plus stage shows featuring a variety of celebrities from TV, radio, book authors, sports and, of course, science. More than 750 companies, universities, national labs, and organizations were there to share the magic of science, engineering, and technology with young people.

ACerS executive director Charlie Spahr was there and reports, “The entire festival was centered around demonstrations of interesting science activities, many of them hands-on. They were all good, and the atmosphere everywhere was extremely energetic!” Spahr’s own “inner scientist” eyes lit up as he described a booth that had ice core samples that were 250 and 4,000 years old, which researchers use to study the history of climate change.

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Hands-on exhibits at the National Science Fair gave participants a chance to experience science concepts for themselves. (Credit: ACerS)

ACerS participated in the event as part of its K-12 outreach, which includes a science demonstration kit put together by the President’s Council of Student Advisors, free online lesson plans, local “science night” activities, and the nascent Ceramic and Glass Industry Foundation.

The demonstrations and experiments at the ACerS booth wowed children and adults of all ages. “Our experiments ran from high-temperature refractory bricks, to superconductivity, to fun with liquid nitrogen,” says Megan Bricker, ACerS director of marketing and membership. “The people who came to the booth were amazed by the levitating superconducting magnet. Plus, freezing things in liquid nitrogen is always fun, and it gave us a chance to talk to the kids about how the structure of materials changes with temperature.”

In addition to the demonstrations, kids could win prizes at the ceramic and glass station at the booth. “Kids and parents really enjoyed our ‘touch a ceramic’ display, which included all kinds of fun stuff such as a space shuttle tiles, ceramic armor, and ceramic bones, just to name a few.” At least one visitor had a personal interest in functional ceramics. Attendee Samantha Everett (pictured above), a sophomore at Virginia Tech, came by the booth just to show off her ceramic orthodontic brackets and her now-favorite material!

Bricker says, “The best part of the festival was watching the excitement and enthusiasm on the kid’s and adult’s faces as they watched and learned about the magnitude of ceramics and glass.”

The next USA Science and Enginrering Festival will be in the spring of 2016, and ACerS will be there!