TCU Advancement

University Advancement

Interdisciplinary innovation

USING PLAYTECTONICS PRODUCTS, MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS LEARN HOW THE CONTINENTS MAY HAVE ONCE FIT TOGETHER BY SHAPING PIECES OF PLAY-DOH AND CONNECTING THEM ON A GUIDE. THE IDEAFACTORY HAS DISTRIBUTED 90,000 OF THE PRODUCTS.

TCU’s IdeaFactory supports teams of students and faculty to create projects that positively impact middle school science education. A chemistry team was charged with inventing an educational outreach tool that could be mass-produced and successfully marketed. The result was Playtectonics products: the Pangea cutter and educational placemat.

Since their development in 2011, these tools have helped thousands of middle school students as far away as New England learn about plate tectonics. They use the 8-inch cutter to extract pieces of Play-Doh that are shaped like the earth’s continents. The placemat helps them see how the continents may have once fit together. The IdeaFactory has distributed 10,000 cutters and 80,000 placemats. Six TCU students are named inventors on the patent, and Playtectonics is being licensed for commercialization.

Covering the elements on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills list, the products accelerate discussion of the scientific evidence underlying the theory of plate tectonics. Teachers and students have lauded the Playtectonics products for their effective, multifaceted and hands-on learning capabilities. Cheryl Allison of the Region 8 Educational Service Center arranged a two-day workshop for teachers to show them how to use the products. “We are thrilled with Playtectonics,” she says.

The IdeaFactory is the invention of Dr. Eric Simanek, who holds the Robert A. Welch Chair of Chemistry. The Robert A. Welch Foundation, created by the Houston businessman’s estate, established the endowed chair in 1973. The impact of this gift continues to influence innovation and discovery.

 

©2017 TCU | 2800 S. University Dr., Fort Worth, Texas 76129 | 817.257.7000 | disweb@tcu.edu

Texas Christian University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate, masters, doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Texas Christian University.