iCOUP Outreach & Education

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iCOUP Outreach & Education


iCOUP Scientists demonstrate polymer science for students in Program for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE)

WISE photo

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 1, Ames Lab and iCOUP scientists engaged with over 100 students through hands-on STEM activities during the WISE (Program for Women in Science and Engineering) Go Further STEM Conference, for female-identifying students in grades 8-10. Gabriela Keeney, Jessica Rodriguez, and Aaron Sadow showed how nylon is made in a hands-on chemistry and plastic upcycling activity. In addition to learning about exciting STEM fields, students had an opportunity to be inspired by female-identifying STEM role models.


iCOUP science at the Iowa State Fair

iCOUP at Iowa State Fair
iCOUP Director Aaron Sadow and scientist Wenyu Huang attended the Iowa State Fair in August, to explain plastic upcyling technology to fair-goers. The exhibit was part of Iowa State University's exhibit, Innovation Revolution.  

iCOUP science was a feature at the Iowa State Fair in early August, as part of Iowa State University’s exhibit, Innovation Revolution.

The display introduced fair-goers to the concept of “upcycling”, a process that finds new uses for single-use plastics that would otherwise end up in landfills. Ames Lab scientists and their partners at other National Laboratories and universities are investigating new catalysts that turn discarded plastics into more valuable chemicals, which can then be transformed into useful products like detergents and synthetic oils.

The exhibit featured a sculpture made of plastic waste as a visual representation of the challenge of global plastic pollution, and possible future transformations into more useful products.

“Talking about this science is important,” said iCOUP Director Aaron Sadow. “Environmental challenges like global plastic pollution can seem overwhelming, and it is really important for people to know that it is possible to use chemistry to advance economically feasible solutions.”


Argonne Education & Outreach Staff Spotlight: Max Delferro

Massimiliano ​“Max” Delferro is a chemist and group leader for the Catalysis Science Program in Argonne National Laboratory’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering (CSE) division, and he leads the development of upcycling methodsMax Delferro for low-value plastic waste to create new products. He also serves as the deputy director for the Institute for Cooperative Upcycling of Plastics. 

When he was young, Max didn’t like to work on homework, but in high school he met a terrific science teacher who forever changed his view on chemistry and physics. ​“The teacher was able to ​‘translate’ what we were learning from the textbook into real experiments,” Max said. ​“Viewing the chemistry and physics in action with my own eyes was incredible, and I wanted to see more.” READ MORE


Grade 5 and Up Activity
Mine Your Trash: Upcycle Your Plastics Challenge

Have you ever heard the phrase: “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure”? Trash bins and landfills are filled with valuable materials! Materials that we can make into new, shiny, and useful things. Join us in our “Mine Your Trash” challenge to reduce the number of items that end up in landfills! Download the activity sheet HERE