Not all members of our community have the time or resources to attend science outreach events. To reach some of those people, the Wisconsin MRSEC conducts its engaging, hands-on science activities to a local food pantry. Customers can wait up to 90 minutes at the food pantry, providing ample time for educational activities for kids, their parents, and other curious adult visitors. By bringing science and engineering activities to the food pantry, the Wisconsin MRSEC forms connections with and helps inspire a new, diverse audience composed entirely of economically disadvantaged members of the community.
During the Wisconsin Science Festival, a statewide event that reaches over 30,000 people, the Wisconsin MRSEC developed an improvised science program held on a trolley that shuttled passengers between 27 science activities around Madison’s Capitol Square. On the trolley, an all-female team interviewed eight early career researchers about their research and lives to enable the ever-changing trolley audience to learn about the scientists and their science as well as ask their own questions of the researchers. More than 150 people rode the trolley and learned about scientific research during their journey. The event was an excellent professional development opportunity in science communication for the researchers and was covered by the Wisconsin State Journal.
The Wisconsin MRSEC has developed research-inspired educational digital games that are each being played over 1900 times/week. Atom Touch teaches students about atom behavior, bonding, and forces. Crystal Cave lets students explore how molecules form repeating patterns to grow into large crystals. During development, local K-12 teachers provided input on how to make the games more engaging for student learning.
Over 90 people attending the 2017 Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall meeting practiced their science communication skills during two interactive, improv-based workshops presented by the Wisconsin MRSEC. The workshops were based upon the highly successful Improv to Improve Science communication and Teaching course for graduate students that Wisconsin MRSEC members co-developed with a Madison theater company and teach at UW-Madison. The workshops were designed to help MRS members practice communication skills, interact with audiences, and collaboratively develop an elevator pitch for their
own research projects. The workshop can be adapted to various time constraints, workshop objectives, and numbers of attendees and has been presented over a dozen times at UW-Madison.