The Society of Plastics Engineers is providing some support to Detroit-area students exploring bioplastics through an after-school study program.
Five high school students with Ecotek, a laboratory for children interested in careers in science and engineering, investigated which bioplastics could be used in an athletic shoe insole, and created a kit they termed Bioplastic-in-a-box to help other students learn about bioplastics.
[The students] were already working on the project when I went to SPE, Ecotek founder Keith Young Sr. said in a Nov. 16 telephone interview. It was important that [students] understand that there [is] a community of professionals out there who do this kind of thing for a living.
SPE's Detroit Section sponsored the students' study, and SPE members Thomas Miller and James Keeler supervised. Ecotek is at Detroit's Tech Town research incubator at Wayne State University.
The students William Marshall, Jordan Massey, Keith Young Jr. and Tendiya Pillow, juniors at Detroit's Renaissance High School, and Aaron Harrigan, a junior at Detroit's Henry Ford Academy looked at existing athletic shoes, read up on biodegradable plastics, visited BASF SE's Wyandotte, Mich., plant and set about formulating their own resin that could be used in a shoe.
The winner was a blend the students called G-2, using glycerin, agar, gelatin and water.
SPE sees its involvement as a way to reach out to more students interested in science, said former Detroit Section President Sandra McClelland. Ecotek has participants as young as elementary school students and draws from throughout the region.
The program lets students do hands on science, rather than just writing reports, he said.
Now that the group has finished its shoe study, Ecotek students have now set their sights on finding ways to use bioplastics in medical parts, he said.