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“You can see their eyes light up when they learn about something new. Aha, it happened!” shares Vanina Ghossein, her own face beaming. Her enthusiasm for a new curriculum she has helped develop around composites for K-12 is palpable. “I love everything about it–from planning an activity, looking for materials, deciding how students should do it, and seeing the sparks in their eyes for the first time.” IACMI – The Composites Institute couldn’t have a better champion for the newly unveiled InnoCrateSM.

What are InnoCratesSM?

Focused on STEAM(Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), InnoCratesSM are a set of portable teaching tools, divided by age levels and filled with everything a classroom would need for a set of hands-on activities. Each kit has 12-18 lessons that can be done over time and has a mix of reusable and consumable items. The goal is to extend educational opportunities to schools that otherwise might miss out due to lack of resources, such as rural locations and underserved populations. It’s also designed to address the need for job skills in composites and manufacturing in general. The idea of science kits is nothing new, but this is the first set of boxes aimed to provide the building blocks of scientific skills needed for working with composites.

InnoCratesSM designed for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 are age-appropriate and align with Tennessee educational standards. Vanina has worked with graduate students in the educational department of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT) to help with teacher guides, develop worksheets, and make sure activities tied in with current state standards. Activities for elementary students include air or rubber band powered cars made from recycled materials, kinetic sand, and color changing slime. Those for older students require working with specific equipment used in the composites industry, such as computer-aided design (CAD) modeling, computerized numerical control (CNC) machines, and molding techniques for injection, vacuum forming, and extrusion compression. No matter the age, the goal is show them what’s possible with composites.