McWane Center Engineering Showcase
On February 22, 2019, the McWane Science Center hosted an event called the Engineering Showcase to celebrate the end of National Engineering Week. A team from UAB Materials Science and Engineering and Society for Plastics Engineers UAB Student Chapter (Dr. Vinoy Thomas: faculty sponsor, Bernabe Tucker: student chapter president) had a demonstration table with a hands-on activity “Plasma and Nano-Spider webs: How Nature Inspires Engineering.” During the demo, students were able to see an electrospinner in action which produces nano and microscale fibers that resemble a tiny spider’s web (a popular super-hero was mentioned by several attendees). Microscope station and fluorescence demonstrations were also set up. Students were able to see a plasma source and learn about how plasmas are being used in research conducted in Alabama, specifically at UAB, to change the properties of polymer materials for biomedical applications, (URLs to recent publications: https://avs.scitation.org/doi/10.1116/1.5023259 and https://www.springerprofessional.de/en/low-temperature-air-plasma-modification-of-electrospun-soft-mate/16510664?searchResult=1.tucker&searchBackButton=true ).
According to the McWane Science Center there were over 2000 students in the K-12 range in attendance. Furthermore, many were from inner city Birmingham (which includes >75 % minority representation). This event highlighted plasma science and technology research being conducted in Alabama funded through the NSF EPSCoR CPU2AL: Connecting the Plasma Universe to Plasma Technology in Alabama project (Cooperative Agreement OIA-1655280). Dr. Yogesh Vohra (CPU2AL lead for UAB) oversees the plasma surface processing research which includes the synthesis of superhard materials (lead by Dr. Aaron Catledge and Dr. Paul Baker) and the surface processing of biomaterials (lead by Dr. Vinoy Thomas). This event demonstrated plasma technology and biomaterials to students from K-12 age ranges, thus, increasing exposure for CPU2AL project and STEM concepts. Involvement included UAB Faculty/Postdoc/Grad Students from Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), Physics, and Center for Nanoscale Materials and Biointegration (CNMB). (written by Bernabe Tucker)