Bristor puts a little TWIST in her summer
Melanie Bristor, a ninth-grade and honors physical science teacher at Coon Rapids High School (CRHS), put a little TWIST into her summer when she had the opportunity to work with scientists at 3M in Maplewood.
Headquartered in Minnesota, 3M is a global company whose innovations have improved the daily life of people all over the world.
The TWIST – Teachers Working in Science and Technology – experience allows secondary teachers an opportunity to spend six weeks working on a 3M research project.
Bristor worked 40-hour weeks from mid-June through August.
The program, open to about 30 teachers a year, is offered in partnership with the Minnesota High Technology Foundation.
The objective is to provide active and challenging technical experiences for teachers in an industrial setting, according to 3M’s website.
TWIST is based on the idea that the way to learn science is to do science – an axiom that applies as much to teachers as it does to their students, the website states.
Bristor had an opportunity to work on a respirator with activated carbon.
Bristor said she was fortunate to be placed with a 3M researcher who has participated in other TWIST programs because he understood the importance of having a project that could be completed within the six-week time frame.
She didn’t know what activated carbon was and had never worked on a respirator, so Bristor said she had to learn from scratch.
“There was a steep learning curve because it wasn’t just the logistics of where things were but we also had to learn the background science of the project we were working on,” she said.
“We had to have a project that you could come up with some sort of conclusion in six weeks because we had to present our research at a seminar at the end of the program.”
In addition to working on their projects, TWIST participants had lunch-time tours and seminars.
With a degree in chemistry from St. Olaf and seven years of teaching experience, Bristor said she got a feel for what scientists do at 3M and it was a great experience.
“I got a good feel for what it’s like to work in industry,” Bristor said.
“3M has science and market research and advertising people working together.
“It is not just looking for a solution to a scientific problem; it needs something that is practical and can be manufactured on a large scale. It made me think of things I wouldn’t otherwise think about.”
Bristor feels her experience will be helpful to her students. While she has done research in academic settings, Bristor had not experienced the industry side of science.
“I didn’t know what the industry was like and the many things scientists do for companies for profit,” she said.
“I applied for TWIST because I wanted to better communicate this with my students.
“Now I will be better able to give them specific examples of working for a business. It also made me want to place an emphasis on engineering.
“The researchers I saw were engineers because they were trying to make something practical out of their knowledge and research.
“I feel I have a better understanding of engineering careers.”
Working at 3M also made Bristor aware of resources the company has available to schools.
“I would like to have some 3M employees come and talk with students about engineering later this year,” she said.
“It is a cool company. It has a very good mission and it’s great to see that it wants to be visible and part of the community.”