Solid or liquid?

On March 3rd, 2023, Postdoc Rob Wagner and Ph.D. candidate Zhongtong Wang, in conjunction with the Cornell Center for Materials Research, attended Dryden Elementary School to teach 3rd-grade students about the phases of matter, and viscoelastic materials. In this interactive lesson designed by Rob, Rob and Zhongtong used hands-on demonstrations spanning from rubber bands and maple syrup, to silly putty, ooblek, and shaving cream to teach the kids about the principles of elasticity, viscosity, and what happens when materials can have both! The lesson ended with a set of video demonstrations and open Q&A pertaining to some of Rob’s Ph.D. research on the mechanics of fire ant rafts, thus highlighting the creative ways researchers may use traditional material science concepts in the exploration of rich, yet widely untapped dynamic, active, and living materials. By allowing the students to make observations, postulate hypotheses, and then openly discuss the root causes of properties in these unusual materials, Rob and Zhongtong sought to spur curiosity, scientific reasoning, and a broader interest in STEM amongst these promising young minds!

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