cena y ciencias logo and photos of students participating

The Illinois MRSEC has partnered with Cena y Ciencias (Supper and Science) for the 2018-2019 academic year. This event brings K-5 students and their families to a monthly science night at an Urbana elementary school. The year's theme is "Nuestro mundo material," or "Our material world" and includes topics that run the range of materials science, including polymers, electronic materials, biomaterials, ancient materials, and materials of the future. Lessons are presented entirely in Spanish, and filled with fun, hands on activities that foster positive connections to science.


Selected Lessons from 2020-2021 Virtual Session

¡Cristales Escondidos en tu Cocina!

Un día en el lab (A day in the lab) con Marilyn Porras Gomez


October 2018 Lesson: Electronic materials
Students were jumping out of their seats with excitement as a van de graaff generator was used to illustrate electric charge,from making hair stand up to throwing a stack of foil pie pans around. They learned that the graphite in pencils is a great conductor, drawing electronic circuits that lit up an LED. They also built graphene models out of marshmallows.

Children draw circuits with pencils.





November 2018 Lesson:  Polymers
The students were amazed to see a balloon get skwered by a wooden stick without popping. They made chains of paperclips to illustrate that polymers are chains of molecules and added magnets to their paperclip chains to show how crosslinking can affect the properties of polymers. They got to test this out with real polymers as they made slime. Read more here.


Student building a polymer model from paperclips and a graduate student who provided some of the content for the event
Photos by Elizabeth Innes, I-STEM.








December 2018 Lesson:  Ancient Materials
Ancient world was brought to life as students learned about materials used long ago, like clay, metal, and natural cloth. An archaologist brought ancient and modern Adobe pottery samples that students could touch and study up close. They used modern polymer clay to create pottery that mimics ancient pieces, which they took home to bake, and tie dyed pieces of cloth.

student examines ancient and modern pottery








February 2019 Lesson: Nature/Green Materials
Students practiced the inquiry process to study materials made from or inspired by nature, including hydrophobic fabric, adhesives inspired by Gecko toes, and velcro.

Photos from lesson on nature/green materials







March 2019 Lesson: Biomaterials
Students learned about materials derived from biological systems, such as DNA, through extraction of DNA from strawberries. They also learned about biocompatible materials by mixing up hydrogels.

Students participating in march activities that included extracting DNA from strawberries and mixing hydrogels.

April 2019: Field Trip to MRL
Participants were able to meet with scientists from the MRSEC, MRL, and campus and learn about surfaces, as well as revisit some themes from previous lessons this year in more depth.

Photos of students leading science exhibits and children participating.













May 2019: Materials of the Future
Students enjoyed the final Cena y Ciencias event of the 2018-2019 academic year, which included displays related to interesting magnetic properties and what happens to materials at low temperatures.

Photos of participants watching displays about magnetism and superconductivity.