DOD-Led Exhibit Spotlights Corrosion


A new permanent exhibit mounted by the biggest names in rust busting targets the scourge of corrosion and encourages students to unlock the mysteries of materials degradation at the Orlando Science Center.

Several years in the making, "Corrosion: The Silent Menace" opened Saturday (March 16) at the Orlando Science Center's Science Station. The festivities included an appearance by actor LeVar Burton, who spent more than an hour answering questions from reporters.

Burton has been the Defense Department's corrosion spokesman since 2009 and has narrated a series of DOD-sponsored videos about corrosion.

The exhibit features artifacts from different sectors of the industry and government to underscore the chemical, electrochemical and geological processes of corrosion.

Unlocking the Secret

"At DoD, we believe middle and high school students should be exposed to the challenges that all communities face as they preserve their local infrastructure," Daniel J. Dunmire, director of the Defense Department's Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight, said in an announcement about the exhibit.

"The causes of corrosion on our bridges, highways and pipelines are rooted in complex scientific processes, and this new DoD-sponsored science exhibit unlocks the secret of those processes and how they can be mitigated."

In addition to DOD and the Science Center, the exhibit is supported by the University of Akron; Bruno White Entertainment; Battelle Memorial Institute; CorrDefense; MVE Systems Inc.; NASA; Reading Rainbow; NACE International; NACE International Foundation; SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings; Ninjaneer Studios; and Echo Artz.

NASA Corrosion Artifacts

The new exhibit is aimed at youth and welcomes theories about corrosion on NASA's Space Shuttle Crawler Transporter. This includes artifacts from a corrosion investigation by the NASA Corrosion Technology Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center, performed to discover why the Crawler Transporter suffered cracking of its shoes.

The exhibit invites students to speculate about why the treads on the crawler may have cracked. Titled "The Case of the Cracked Crawler Treads," the lesson tests younger brains about challenges NASA experienced with the Transporter and reviews NASA's original "fault tree" hypothesis about causes of cracking.

Corrosion The Silent Menace

University of Akron corrosion engineering majors John Nnyanzi (left), Kevin Meisner and Mary Cole operate a module on stress-cracking at the corrosion exhibit. The University of Akron offers the nation's first corrosion engineering bachelor's degree.

Two Crawler Transporters have been affected by cracking since they started operating in the 1960s.

"Students can also read the actual NASA report and compare its conclusions to their own views about whether the crawler shoe corrosion stemmed from inadequate maintenance, improper design and fabrication, or excessive loads," said Dunmire.

Exhibit Features

Towering over the exhibit entrance is a 150-square-foot trestle bridge made of rusty steel. A menu of virtual experiences graphically depicts the science of corrosion and the industrial processes that can prevent it.

The high-tech exhibit depicts the science of corrosion in a lively and informative setting. Students of all ages can explore what corrosion is and how to prevent it with activities that include:

  • 3-D Mapping, courtesy of Ninjaneer Studios, uses projection technology to visualize how corrosion affects infrastructure;
  • Cracking under Stress applies weight to test beam and truss shapes that can then be looked at from polarized glass to see the areas most affected by stress and most likely to corrode;
  • The Case of the Cracked Crawler Shoes investigates real NASA artifacts and walks students in the footsteps of a corrosion engineer to determine the cause of the corrosion;
  • Careers in Corrosion shares experiences from professionals in the field of corrosion engineering and discusses how they got inspired to address corrosion problems;
  • The Corrosion Rack, provided by Battelle Memorial Institute and NASA Corrosion Technology Laboratory, utilizes hand-held microscopes to look at coupons or samples to appreciate how scientists collect data to discover how environmental and weather conditions can degrade materials in different ways;
  • Little Plates Reveal Big Secrets investigates samples of materials exposed to corrosive environments to determine which materials and coatings provide the best protection; and
  • CORRSim Junior takes an (inter)active role in preventing corrosion by painting and protecting bicycles from weather elements using Xbox 360 Kinect to track students' movements.

Examples of six forms of corrosion are also hidden around the exhibit to help students understand the appearance of corrosion.

"Students will assume the role of inspector and seek out specific examples of fretting, pitting and galvanic corrosion, for instance," said Anne Hanson, manager of Continuing Education and Outreach at The University of Akron's National Center for Education and Research on Corrosion and Materials Performance.

LaVar Burton

At the exhibit's grand opening, actor LaVar Burton joined Gaily Harton, 13, a middle schooler from Orange City, FL, at the Careers in Corrosion video kiosk.

University of Akron

Saturday's festivities included participation by 13 University of Akron corrosion engineering students, who are scheduled to receive $38,000 in scholarships today (March 19) at NACE's corrosion conference in Orlando.

The University of Akron offers the nation's first bachelor's degree in corrosion engineering. Launched in 2010, the program emphasizes project management and responds to calls from both the government and industry for corrosion engineers to address a $400 billion national corrosion problem, according to the university.

VIP Grand Opening

The VIP Grand Opening also included remarks and appearances by JoAnn Newman, president and CEO of Orlando Science Center; Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL); and representatives from NACE and SSPC.

"One of our greatest strengths at the Orlando Science Center is presenting science concepts in a very engaging way so they connect with the public, especially children," said Newman.

"This partnership has enabled us to raise awareness about this silent menace while also demonstrating the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning and the need to inspire the next generation of workers."

The exhibit's grand opening coincides with NACE International's annual conference and exposition, CORROSION 2013, which is being held at the Orange County Convention Center through Thursday (March 21).


Tagged categories: Coatings education; Corrosion; Corrosion protection; Department of Defense (DOD); NACE; NASA; Program/Project Management; Research and Markets; SSPC

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