For the past three years, I have had the privilege of attending the ACS Rubber Division's Science & Technology Awards banquet, held during the organization's spring meeting.
Each year, I sit there in awe. They use words such as “innovator,” “scientist,” “educator” and “expert” to describe these brilliant individuals who receive the prestigious awards. In reality, those are just feeble attempts at characterizing the rock stars of the rubber industry. It's like describing the Grand Canyon as picturesque.
This year, I have the honor to present one of these awards at the meeting in San Antonio. I will be representing another industry giant, Ralph Graff, when I present Frank Bates with the Ralph S. Graff Foundation's Chemistry of Thermoplastics Elastomers Award. I certainly will make the effort to detail Bates' contributions to his research of thermodynamics and dynamics of polymers and polymer mixtures, but I know it will be impossible to list his contributions to our industry in the short time I will be allotted to introduce him to an audience of his peers.
Bates will be among six award recipients. The Rubber Division's highest honor, the Charles Goodyear Medal, will be given to Georg Bohm, who holds 66 patents and has written 37 publications. Bohm's most significant contributions, according to the Rubber Division, involve the coextrusion of tire components and the radiation crosslinking of rubber.
As I reflect on those individuals, I am reminded of those at the other end of the rubber industry spectrum. As part of its five-year strategic plan, implemented in January, the Rubber Division has identified student outreach as one of its priorities.
That plan includes several interesting facets. While the group continues to engage university students through its student chapters, which it began in 2013, it will continue to target high school students. Last fall, for the first time ever, the Rubber Division hosted nearly 150 students and teachers, from nine Northeast Ohio high schools, for a day of interactive training at the International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland. The plan is to repeat that in 2017.
Now, the Rubber Division intends to reach out to students in elementary school. And if the staff is successful in creating and providing a curriculum that helps science teachers meet Ohio's stringent standards, putting rubber technology within the classroom, the industry will have an outstanding chance of attracting talented individuals of all skill levels.
And maybe, just maybe, two generations from now, several of those same students will receive acclamation of their own at the Science and Technology Awards banquet.
Detore is managing editor of Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DonDetore.