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The real future of composites

CW senior editor Scott Francis talks to kids about composite applications at a local elementary school STEM night.

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When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut— or at least I thought I did. I went to Space Camp and everything. But turns out, I’m kinda scared of heights. So I ended up doing other things and eventually became a writer/editor. And, don’t get me wrong — I love it. I love learning about what other people do and the exciting things that people in the composites industry make and make possible.

But sometimes when I’m researching a story for CW and learn about all the amazing engineering and rewarding work that goes into making something — a heat shield for a spacecraft, for example — I wonder what twists and turns my career path might have taken if someone had really impressed upon me as a kid that I didn’t have to be an astronaut to be part of space exploration. What if someone had taken time to take me on a tour of a production facility and showed me how I could be involved in the really important work that enables those space missions? They probably did some of that at Space Camp, but at the time I was pretty wrapped up my astronaut phase — but that’s not really my point. It’s important to remind kids we know of these opportunities whenever possible.

So, when my daughters’ school asked for volunteers for their STEM night, I jumped at the opportunity. I had a blast talking to the kids about all of the exciting applications that composites can be used for. Kids love cars and spaceships and boats — so, of course, they love learning about the materials that make them. (Especially if you use KitKat candy bars to try to explain fiber plies and matrix systems.) 

When we think about our future workforce and what kids will be doing in the future, I think it’s important that we remember to take time to connect with them and let them know about all the things that advanced materials make possible. Plus, kids are just amazing — they ask some of the best questions and are so excited to learn. If you take time to hang out with them, you might just learn something yourself.