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11/1/2004 | 1 MINUTE READ

Recruiting the Next Generation for Plastics

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What better way to turn children onto the world of plastics than to make it into a video game?

What better way to turn children onto the world of plastics than to make it into a video game? That’s the idea behind the Fantastic Plastics Works exhibit that opened last month at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla. The 5000-sq-ft display is full of touchscreen terminals for playing educational games. They provide a positive image of plastics and, more important, encourage young people to think of careers in plastics. The Works was funded by $5 million donated by DuPont, General Electric, the Society of the Plastics Industry, and more than 30 industry suppliers, processors, and publications (including this one).

In the exhibit’s science section, visitors try their hands at designing a plastic resin by putting together different chemical building blocks to achieve desired properties. In the design section, visitors choose different types of plastics to build a robot. Then they race their robots over an on-screen obstacle course using electronic “dance pads” to move the robot’s feet. In the manufacturing section, a Demag injection machine molds robot parts, which are delivered by a robot arm to the visitors, who assemble the toy robots themselves. All around the exhibit are eye-catching plastic applications in automotive, electronics, sports, etc.

“Plastics are all around us. They inspire creativity, and I want to be a part of it!” That’s what the sponsors hope visitors will think, explains Paula Weis, SPI’s director of communications and marketing. Adds GE spokesman Terry Dunn, “We want to encourage intellectual curiosity in young people about how the world works. Hopefully, some may seek careers in materials science.”

Or how about in plastics journalism?