Our Mission:

MRS Outreach Ambassadors aim to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers by engaging K-12 students in hands-on engineering experiments and analyses. As a committee of the Stanford Chapter of the Materials Research Society (MRS), the Outreach Ambassadors offer in-class demonstrations and lectures on the materials of our world, materials of the future, and careers in science and engineering. From large and exciting demos with liquid nitrogen, to small group and hands-on demos with advanced materials, we encourage students to develop inquisitive minds while teaching them the basics of what matters in the universe.

We work with Stanford SPLASH and the Bay Area Science Festival, as well as local K-12 schools, science fairs, and The Children’s Workshop. Please contact us if you are interested in having the Outreach Ambassadors visit your school or event.


Demo Examples:

Our hands-on demos can be done in small groups of 3-4 or individually. For each demo, we aim to show how a seemingly complex process can be condensed to a rather simple explanation that involves the basic tenets of materials science. These demos include:

- Determining the composition of pennies using liquid nitrogen

In 1982, pennies changed from being predominantly copper to zinc. In this demo, we show how using liquid nitrogen and a hammer, we can easily elucidate a pennies’ composition and connect how temperature, a hammer strike, and composition all come together to either shatter or bend a penny.

How can I bend a copper tube?

Unmodified copper tubes can be easily bent; however, successive bending becomes increasingly harder. Using a blow torch, we aim to show how material properties are not solely defined by their atomic components and that maybe a little heat can help you.

Creating brittle aluminum alloys using gallium

Aluminum foil, while flimsy, will never crumble. On the other hand, adding a little gallium can make aluminum foil crumble upon contact. Through this demo, we show the basics of what is an alloy, how alloys can be both beneficial and harmful, and how location of your added element can make all the difference.

What do bubbles and metals have in common?

Bubbles are a highly useful tool in showing the basics of crystal structure. Using soap bubbles, we can show some of the basics in crystal structure including grains, crystal structure, and imperfections.

-Shape memory alloys: do materials have memory?

While it may seem counterintuitive, certain materials can actually “remember” their initial configuration after bending. In this demo, we will show how after bending a shape memory alloy in various configurations, we can use a little heat to return it back to its original shape. These class of materials possess some rather unique properties, which can be connected to how metals deform in general.

-Superconductors and levitation

Superconductors expel a magnetic field that can be stronger than gravity, thus leading to levitation. While some of the physics is complex, we aim to show some of the interesting properties and explain what is holding these materials back from being used in a variety of applications.

If there is a specific demo you have in mind or want to adjust one we currently use, we are always open to working within your curriculum. Also, while most of our demos are relatively safe, we can tailor demos to adhere to any specific safety concerns.

Contact: dcortade@stanford.edu