Thanks to BASF, the chemical company, and the session they sponsored at Arc-US earlier this month, I plan to be a hero this weekend. Not the superhero type with spectacular powers and spandex costume, just a simple hero by showing my two granddaughters science can be fun. We will be getting our hands dirty making borax slime - a polymer that is easy to make and fun to play with.
The amazing part of this adventure is that my wife and daughters are leaving the men, my son and me, in charge of the two granddaughters for an entire day while the girls take in a Broadway show. I don't know what possessed them to think this was a good idea, but I plan to make the most of it. What could possibly go wrong?
Material Science is Essential
There are so many aspects of building design and construction that just would not be possible without science. Science gives us materials designed for specific purposes with properties that are tailored to perform in specific ways. Material synthesis is controlled to achieve superior mechanical, flexibility, weathering, permeability, flammability, and thermal conductivity properties to suit specific applications.
Polymers, like the borax slime, are becoming increasingly important and ever more prevalent in the construction industry. Though polymers and plastics are often thought synonymous, polymers include a much larger group of materials. Natural polymers include shellac, wool, silk, and natural rubber. Synthetic polymers include synthetic rubber, neoprene, nylon, PVC, polystyrene, silicone, and many more.
In construction, think of the applications that polymers play: pipe, conduit, wire insulation, roofing, flooring, insulation. The list goes on. It is virtually impossible to build without including polymers somewhere in the construction. The 2003 book "Polymers in Building and Construction" reports that in Europe about 20% of plastic consumption is in the construction industry. What might the percentage be today?
A Grandparent Experience
So it will be Blair, Evelyn, Bill and me. The kitchen may never be the same, but I only get to enjoy my granddaughter's childhood once. So we plan to use borax, polyvinyl acetate (Elmer's Glue), food coloring, and water to make our slime. I get explain how Grandpa helps create buildings and how we must understand the materials we use to build. I get to teach a little bit of chemistry, just like BASF, taught 100 architects.
My granddaughters get slime - a fun toy with a consistency between Silly Putty and Ghostbuster's Ectoplasm that requires imagination for play. Pull it apart, shape it, put it back together, and save it for future use.
Who knows, spark an interest, and we could have a future building scientist in the family.
A Special Thanks
BASF sponsored a temporary chemistry lab at Arc-US to demonstrate the importance of chemistry in the building industry. Thanks to Tony Saracino, Michael Fletcher, and Lisa Barnard for providing the entertaining opportunity to see the results of chemistry by experimentation.
Make your own slime. Here is the easy to follow recipe shared by BASF. http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/glue-borax-gak