In April the Tech Warriors took a trip to Braskem’s Innovation and Technology Center. Braskem is the largest producer of thermoplastic resins in the Americas and the world’s leading biopolymer producer, including the leading producer of polypropylene in the United States. The Warriors learned about the company, toured the Labs, and listened to career talks in addition to discussing chemistry, history, processing, manufacturing, sustainability, and application of plastics.
The day began with an introduction to safety, followed by an overview of Braskem and what they do. They discussed the concepts of invention versus innovation, focusing around what is possible with current technology, what is desireable to users, and what is viable in the marketplace in order to transform an idea into something useful in order to create new products, processes, or services.
After discussing the process of how Braskem makes Polypropylene (PP), the Warriors learned some key uses of PP resins in our everyday lives, from automotive industry, fibers, tapes and packaging, food containers, and more. They discussed the business side of the industry as well, such as advancing business growth, client satisfaction, and market leadership through the development and deployment of new technologies. “We learned that Braskem doesn’t actually produce plastics,” reports Tech Warrior Shahada Abdul-Ghaffar. “Rather, they develop formulas for plastics that meet the specific needs of whatever product their clients need to package.”
After a lunch break, where the students were able to casually spend some time and speak with Braskem members, the Warriors toured the Labs at Braskem and experienced first-hand the processes behind Braskem’s products. “We went on really fun tour of the facility where they got to see how different types of plastics are developed and tested,” Shahada reflects. “It was really cool to see the equipment they use to stretch the plastics when they are testing them.”
Following the lab tours, the Warriors heard career talks given by Joel Carr, Research Scientist / Co-Polymer Team Leader; Brandi Mitchell, Catalyst Lab Supervisor; and Cheryl Hayes, Information Technology Manager. “The staff members were very engaging and interesting,” says Shahada. “Everyone really enjoyed [the visit] and are looking forward to the next when we will get to do more hands-on activities.”