Cathedral students experience what material engineers do for a living

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Stretching rubber bands as far as possible without breaking them; pushing a metal piece inside a balloon; and watching liquid nitrogen freeze elastic — it’s all STEM education.  


Sixth- through eighth-graders at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington attended a STEM presentation March 1 by Angela Leimkuhler Moran, a materials engineering scientist who teaches at the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.


Moran said STEM awareness has increased recently, and that creates a need for people with specific skillsets. “We need a lot more technologists and people to be tech-savvy particularly in the engineering worlds,” she said.
Moran ran through several hands-on experiments with the students and teachers, while emphasizing the need for more engineers.


The program was sponsored by USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo, which will be held April 7-8 in Washington. St. Thomas More was chosen as one of 50 schools in the nation to host a guest presenter in anticipation of the festival.


Raylene Rozzi, a teacher at St. Thomas More, nominated the school. Rozzi said she met Moran at the U.S. Naval Academy during a Sea Perch competition attended by students in the STEM SeaPerch SubClub. The event involved making underwater vehicles and navigating them through challenges.


“This event is a tie-in with our school being so science-focused,” said Rozzi.


After demonstrating several experiments, Moran said they lend themselves to real applications. “All of these things I’m showing you are simplistic approaches to using materials concepts to make something,” she said. “We don’t punch balloons. We don’t play with rods. Materials engineers do develop things like the maglev train,” which uses magnets to levitate the train.


Bella Rozzi, a seventh-grader, who is excited about STEM studies, had one favorite experiment. “I learned how elastic can be frozen in liquid nitrogen and then come back (to its original form),” she said.  


The students are encouraged to attend the science and engineering festival with their families. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018