2, Grupo de Desarrollo de Materiales y Estudios Ambientales, Departamento de Desarrollo Tecnológico, Centro Universitario Regional del Este, Universidad de la República, Rocha, , Uruguay
We are a research group devoted to materials science research since 2000, and we work in the three aspects of Uruguayan University teaching profession: research, teaching and outreach. We started working on ionizing radiation detectors, but through the years our work has evolved to adapt ourselves to our country’s reality. In 2011, 44% Uruguayan electricity came from fossil fuels, with a strong dependence on foreign countries. Today, we are self-sufficient and 95% of our production comes from renewable sources, mainly wind and hydroelectrical. Our group aligns with this policy, developing semiconductor nanostructures for hybrid polymeric-inorganic solar cells. Another remarkable aspect of our country is that water is a resource widely available, but in the last years the quality of our water has aggravated mainly due to bad agricultural practices. In this line, we develop semiconductor nanoparticles for tertiary treatment of water.
We put a lot of effort, not only in research to develop a more sustainable country, but also in teaching and outreach that helps to create consciousness in the population about new technologies and also to give them tools to create their own opinion. Regarding to teaching, in the last year we embarked on a challenging project to change the traditional lecturing courses, in our Introduction to Nanotechnology course. We decided to introduce the Problem Based Learning approach together with collaborative work with emphasis in sustainability issues, to anchor the assessment in performances directly related to the discipline. Moreover, the course design included face-to-face and virtual activities. At the end, the students increased their commitment and showed a deeper understanding of the topics.
Regarding to outreach, we have been working to bring materials science activities to schools and high schools for over 10 years. We started this path with small steps, performing isolated activities in the Science and Technology Week frame. Afterwards, we carried out different outreach projects, such as “Materials that surround us” and “Materials in our home”. In all our activities, we always carry out hands-on activities and try to emphasize how materials have had a major role in human kind development.
Although the availability of funding has been irregular and there are difficulties to sort out, we believe that the best way of improving materials science in our country and to contribute to a sustainable development is through the education of young students, therefore, we plan on continuing this kind of activities in 2019 and beyond.