[caption id="attachment_235654" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Discovery Hub Chemours Senior Staff Chemist Elizabeth Diaz explains to high school students about work in spectroscopy during a tour on Dec. 12. |DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
NEWARK — Odessa High School students flocked to the Chemours Discovery Hub to get an inside look of how the STEM curriculum they learn in the classroom can be applied to innovative products down the line.With safety goggles on, the students walked through parts of the 312,000 square-foot lab on the University of Delaware STAR Campus on Dec. 11, talking with scientists and engineers about membranes that interlock with Chemours work in hydrogen fuel sources, as well as spectroscopy and creating molecules for future data center cooling products.For Chemours, the hope is to open young Delawareans' minds to possibilities for a career in their home state in the science and engineering fields. The chemical and manufacturing company has launched several tours and ChemFEST Tours with schools in the state, notably in April 2023 that introduced 100 elementary students to demonstrations on how science works.Chemours Discovery Hub Site Manager Timothy Hopkins said that providing that spark was crucial for building a workforce in the First State. The Delaware education assessment for 2022-2023 showed that 24% of fifth graders 16% of eighth graders scored proficient grades in biology. At high school biology, 22% scored proficient or higher, according to the state Department of Education report.In 2011 Delaware graduated 23% of science and engineering degrees of the entire nation. Employment in STEM occupations is projected to grow at twice its rate of overall employment through 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.“When you look at what we’re graduating in the STEM fields and where we'd like to be, it doesn’t match,” Hopkins said. “So we’re trying to work closely with education partners like the University of Delaware and Delaware State University on how to work together to build this pipeline. With expanding this program, we’re hoping that kids leave wanting to be an engineer.”In Delaware, Project Lead The Way has helped jumpstart a pipeline for engineering students, opening a door to the University of Delaware engineering program. At Appoquinimink School District, the four-course program covers a broad approach to engineering and ends with a senior project that involves collaboration with companies big and small. That can range from W.L. Gore and Chemours or a mechanic shop.Appoquinimink Supervisor of College and Career Readiness Mike Trego said with Project Lead The Way started as a way tomake students workforce ready by the time they graduate high school - be it sending them down the path to a doctorate degree or a certification program.“We’re starting to see students find their passion, and that’s the exciting part of this,” Trego said. “These tours happen all the time, and the students are starting to see themselves in those careers, and some they didn’t know existed before.”Through many stops, Odessa High School students were able to try their hands at a membrane model to demonstrate how Chemours is working to best optimize hydrogen fuel for the least amount of energy. With Delaware a partner in the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), Chemours aims to be central to the hydrogen future with fuel cells and related technology.Odessa High students were also able to take a look in the analytical labs that use infrared spectroscopy to study and understand chemical compositions and how they work. Chemours associates also provided a front seat view of the immersion cooling tower, designed with a proprietary fluid Opteon 2P50 created in the labs. From the first idea back in 2020, Chemours is reaching the final stages of testing and plans to roll out Opteon 2P50 to market in 2025.With the cutting edge innovation at the Discovery Hub Chemours Senior Staff Chemist Elizabeth Diaz hopes that the Delaware students see that there are practical ways their classroom lessons can translate into a career.“I really didn’t know what a career in this field looked like until maybe my last year of college and that was working in the labs,” said Diaz, who went to UD for graduate school. “For some people, that is when they realize this isn’t a fit for them. But giving students the opportunity definitely gives them the idea of what work and change you can be doing.”
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