Hope Yashnik, The Observer
Case Western Reserve University
The showing of the Bakelite documentary at Case Western Reserve University had a successful viewing and drew a sizable and diverse crowd this fall. The documentary told the story of Leo Baekeland, the inventor of the first polymer, in an informative, engaging and humorous way.
The film gave all audience members a glimpse of what Leo Baekeland’s life and invention were like. The film explained how Bakelite was created through Baekeland’s perseverance. The versatility of the polymer was highlighted, and I didn’t realize that so many items had could be produced with Bakelite. The film also addressed the environmental implications of Bakelite and successive polymers. The original music by Martin J. Fegy was a particularly entertaining element that provided for smooth transitions throughout the film.
Following the film, a Q&A panel was held with Director John Maher and Executive Producer Hugh Karraker. Other panelists included Professor Mark Soucek from the Department of Polymer Engineering at University of Akron, CWRU Professors from the Macromolecular Science & Engineering Department David Schiraldi and Hatsuo Ishida, who was also the film’s host. The panel answered a plethora of questions for the audience about the applications, production process and history of Bakelite.
The documentary drew people from many backgrounds. Bakelite jewelry lovers, CWRU students and polymer enthusiasts were all in attendance. A group of students from Hathaway Brown, an independent all girls’ high school in Cleveland, accompanied by their teacher Crystal Miller. Many of these students are involved with polymer research at CWRU or NASA Glenn. One of these students, Kshama Girish, said after the film, “I work in the material science branch at the NASA Glenn research center and I was already looking into material science. I realized now that there truly are so many applications to material science, way more than I anticipated.”