PlastiVan Drives Kids' Interest in Plastics

Elizabeth Montalbano

March 24, 2015

2 Min Read
PlastiVan Drives Kids' Interest in Plastics

A program to educate kids about the science and technology of plastics as well how they can have future careers in the field has received a $200,000 funding boost from the National Plastics Center to expand.

PlastiVan -- a 19-year-old program from the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) -- sends what are called "PlastiVans" to schools and companies in North America to educate people of all ages about plastic's chemistry, history, processing, manufacturing, sustainability, and applications.

The funding -- which is in addition to $47,000 already provided by the board of the National Plastics Center -- will go toward implementing a management plan for the PlastiVan program to ensure its future growth, Marjorie Weiner, academic outreach for the PlastiVan program at SPE, told Design News.


"The $200,000 will help grow the program so we can reach more students in the United States and globally, she said, adding that the SPE is open to more sponsors for PlastiVan, which is sponsor-driven."

The National Plastics Center is a nonprofit institution dedicated to promoting the future of plastics through public education and awareness, in addition to preserving its past and maintaining present uses and applications of the materials.

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The PlastiVan program is in line with the center's mission by bringing the science of plastics to middle- and high-school kids through a hands-on lab experience in the classroom, Weiner told us. "They are learning about the chemistry, manufacturing, and sustainability of products they use every day," she said. "They are learning that everything in their life is engineered and if they seek a career in engineering then they have input on products that influence society, globally."

It's important to reach children at this age as they begin to make decisions about what careers they might begin to pursue through higher educations, Weiner said. "The middle and high school students are the future of the industry," she said. "The program is geared to entice students to seek careers in engineering and specifically plastics engineering." It does this by working closely with the universities to encourage the students to investigate the schools that have plastics engineering or plastics engineering technology majors, she added.

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Any school can participate in PlastiVan; however, a sponsor -- usually a company in the plastics industry -- typically chooses the schools, which are typically middle and high schools, Weiner said. PlastiVan conducts 130 school visits per year, reaching about 50,000 students.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and NYC. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Montalbano

Elizabeth Montalbano has been a professional journalist covering the telecommunications, technology and business sectors since 1998. Prior to her work at Design News, she has previously written news, features and opinion articles for Phone+, CRN (now ChannelWeb), the IDG News Service, Informationweek and CNNMoney, among other publications. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she also has lived and worked in Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco and New York City. She currently resides in Lagos, Portugal. Montalbano has a bachelor's degree in English/Communications from De Sales University and a master's degree from Arizona State University in creative writing.

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