In 2011, TMI was awarded a Materials Interdisciplinary Research Team grant from the National Science Foundation for “Exploring Unusual Properties of Transition Metal Oxides.” The NSF’s generosity made possible the development of a variety of educational offerings targeted to students, educators and the public at large. One goal of the MIRT outreach program has been to open the door to materials science and engineering to young learners from groups who remain underrepresented in STEM fields. As part of that goal, the MIRT program has partnered with the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders (ARS), a public charter school in the Austin Independent School District that serves over 700 students in grades 6 through 12.
Thanks to this growing relationship with the Ann Richards School, MIRT researchers were able to expand their outreach efforts this November with a new event at the school, a day-long visit from the Trailblazer II bus. The Trailblazer II, a 40-foot exhibit trailer operated by the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering, is a museum on wheels that brings science and engineering to life through exciting interactive displays. With the help of volunteers from the MIRT program and the University of Texas’ student chapter of the Materials Research Society (MRS), the Trailblazer visit allowed approximately 140 6th and 7th grade students to visit each of the five interactive stations and learn about a diverse range of topics including aerodynamics, energy, space, weather and biotechnology.