Close Encounters of the Polymer Kind

Polymers are a vital part of our everyday lives and nearly all consumer products have a plastic component of some variation. Students explore the basic characteristics of polymers through the introduction of two polymer categories: thermoplastics and thermosets. During teacher demos, students observe the unique behaviors of thermoplastics. The fundamentals of thermoset polymers are discussed, preparing them to conduct the associated activity in which they create their own thermoset materials and mechanically test them. At the conclusion of this lesson-activity pair, students understand the basics of thermoplastics and thermosets, which may entice their interest in polymer engineering.