The Materials World Modules (MWM) program was introduced to Mexico this May, and will, for the first time, be taught to Mexican students in their own language in the fall of 2005. To prepare for this event, MWM recently held a workshop to train fifty teachers from fifteen high schools in Chihuahua, Mexico. This workshop was made possible by collaboration with researchers from Centro de Investigacion en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV) and the Department of Education & Culture for the state of Chihuahua. Dr. Luis Fuentes Cobas of CIMAV first had the idea to help bring MWM to the Spanish speaking world, and has been pivotal in implementing these first steps in bringing MWM to Mexico. The MWM team consisted of Professor R.P.H. Chang (program director), Matthew Hsu (senior content developer) and Antonio Marquez, a chemistry teacher from Evanston Township High School. Before the workshop was held, the MWM/CIMAV team met with the Maria Guadalupe Chacón, the Secretary of the Department of Education & Culture for the state of Chihuahua, who was very enthusiastic and supportive.
The teacher training session began with an opening ceremony and a motivational speech by Secretary Chacón, who spoke of the importance of introducing materials science and technology to Mexican classrooms. Professor Chang, with Antonio Marquez translating, presented the mission and philosophy of MWM. Matthew Hsu then led the teachers though the activities and concepts of the composites module, which had been translated into Spanish.
The teachers showed enormous creativity and resourcefulness, and their enthusiasm for MWM was evident as they became very involved in the activities and took detailed notes. The teachers learned the principles of inquiry and design, as well as concepts important to composite materials. First, the �hook� activity showed teachers that ice reinforced with paper is much more resistant to breaking than ice alone. The teachers also learned about crack propagation, and how reinforcing a material with fibers can stop a crack from moving through a material. The composites hunt, an activity which asks participants to find and identify the composite materials around them, generated much discussion about what a composite really is.
The teachers then tested the strength and stiffness of a variety of materials and learned the importance of these two materials properties. They measured the strength and stiffness of a foam beam by clamping it on one end, loading the free end, and measuring the resulting beam bending.
The activities culminated in two design projects involving the making of impact resistant molds and kites. After making the molds out of gypsum-based cement, the teachers devised clever ways to test the impact resistance of the molds. The kite project challenged the teachers to create kites from drinking straws, which in general are not strong enough to make a kite. To make a kite, the straws must be reinforced. The teachers were given a variety of materials with which to reinforce the straws, including wire, tape, yarn and epoxy. They were challenged to make the surface area of the kites as large as possible while keeping them as light as possible. The winning kite was box-shaped, with maximum surface area and minimum mass; flat kites, although they had large areas, also required a lot of material and were too massive. Teachers tested their kites outside to see if they would actually fly, and many of them did.
MWM plans to return to Chihuahua to train teachers in the concrete and biosensors modules, which will be translated into Spanish. In the meantime, CIMAV plans to hold additional sessions to help expand teacher knowledge about materials science. This workshop represents the beginning of an endeavor to help bring materials science and inquiry to high school classrooms in Mexico.