Can you tell the difference between a thermoplastic and a thermoset? Well, if you're reading this blog, I hope so. High school students probably cannot, but they can learn at the "Heating Plastics" online game, at the Nobel Foundation's Web site, Nobelprize.org. The game, which is sponsored by Basell Polyolefins, features a talking plastic duck that teaches young people about how plastics are made, then gives them a quiz on polymer chemistry. The students judge (or perhaps guess) which materials are thermoplastic and which are thermoset. Each correct answer wins a "catalyst," and winners collect enough catalysts to produce their own virtual toy duck.
“We are proud to be a sponsor of an educational tool that highlights the significant contributions that plastics make every day to improving our quality of life,” said Massimo Covezzi, president of Basell Research and Development. “We are equally as proud of the fact that Basell predecessor company scientists Karl Ziegler and Giulio Natta shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 for their revolutionary work in the development of polyethylene and polypropylene polymerisation. Over 40 years later, we still produce catalysts that bear their names and that continue to produce high performance plastics which meet the needs of today's consumers.”I'm always skeptical of industry-sponsored intiatives designed to reach out to young people. They often seem less educational and more like propaganda. That's not the case here -- although I'm not sure how 14-year-olds will react to the talking duck narrator. (To be fair, it is presented pretty tongue-in-cheek). I do have one minor criticism, and it relates to the game's introduction. When the duck takes players on a journey from the oil well through the plastics processing plant, the animated processing plant includes a couple of big smokestacks that belch some sort of big clouds. I guess that's supposed to indicate that it's a factory ... but in real life, it's rare to see a processing plant with a big polluting smokestack.