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Ursinus Brings Fun and “GaMES” to Campus

In a series of experiments that you might imagine taking place during an Olympics-style competition for young scientists, students ages 10-16 worked hands-on with engineering, material synthesis and experimental research during Ursinus’s first GaMES camp this June.

GaMES (Glass and Materials science to Engage Students) is designed to be both fun and educational, and to provide real opportunities for students—especially girls and those from underserved student populations—to engage in scientific learning, collaborative research, problem solving and discussion. Led by Casey Schwarz, an assistant professor of physics, as well as two Ursinus summer fellows, Kateryna Swan ’20 and Max Liggett ’20, the camp is funded by a grant from the American Ceramic Society’s Ceramic and Glass Industry Foundation. A high school student, Caroline Vauclain from the Agnes Irwin High School, is also assisting with the camp.

“In this camp, they’re getting to use material that they don’t typically see in their schools,” Schwarz said. “It’s an opportunity to expose them to materials science at an earlier age and show them that there are many different opportunities, careers and research in the sciences. These experiments combine math, chemistry, physics, engineering and more.”

During the weeklong camp, the 28 students delved into engineering, electronics, energy, biomaterials and optics while exploring hot topics like nanomaterials, quantum dot, drug delivery and solar cells. From testing the strength of a chocolate bar to making polymer-based slime, the experiments were both educational and fun.

In one experiment, the students melted Jolly Ranchers into a gooey glob of candy to see how far it could stretch out in front of the Innovation and Discovery Center.

“They’re demonstrating a phase change,” Schwarz said. “We talk a lot about how glass has an amorphous structure and how you can take something crystalline and heat it up and change it into an amorphous structure. The Jolly Rancher experiment demonstrates how materials like fiber glass are made.”

Andrew Robinson, a seventh grader at Renaissance Academy Charter School, and Kaila Tate, a seventh grader attending Coventry Christian Schools, said they had a lot of fun with the GaMES camps experiments.

“We’re learning about the chemical composition and structure of items and it’s a lot of fun learning about it,” Robinson said. “Science is my favorite subject. It’s always been something that’s intrigued me.”

“In most classes, you’re just reading about this in a textbook,” Tate said. “This is hands-on and lets us use materials we don’t use in school.” –by Ed Moorhouse