Plastics on Wheels

Does anyone remember RIF – Reading is Fundamental?


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The Pennsylvania College of Technology hosted the SPE PlastiVan last week to educate students about careers in the plastics industry.


Does anyone remember RIF – Reading is Fundamental? It was established in 1966, the idea of a woman named Margaret McNamara, who wanted to bring the joy of reading (and promote literacy) to children in the Washington D.C. area. The idea turned into a national movement, and RIF had what they called Bookmobiles that were mobile libraries equipped with books of all kinds that would be distributed to kids free of charge. Sponsors like the Ford Foundation helped make the books available, and RIF really had a positive impact, including on me. I remember the Bookmobile visiting our school.

Like RIF, the Society of Plastics Engineers has what it calls its PlastiVan, a mobilized “lab” that travels around North America to teach students of all ages about the history of plastics, as well as the chemistry, processing, manufacturing, application and sustainability of it. I first learned about the PlastiVan program through my former employer that sponsored visits by the mobile teaching lab to schools as a way of promoting careers in our industry. The unique thing about PlastiVan is that it provides hands-on learning, which is so important for today’s youth.

I saw on Facebook that the PlastiVan recently visited the Pennsylvania College of Technology to promote career opportunities in the plastics industry, and I felt it was important to remind folks that these programs exist. Watch the video about the event here.

For those companies or trade organizations who want to know more about SPE’s PlastiVan program, you can watch a video and get contact information and sponsorship details here.

By the way, the RIF program is alive and well today, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016. Likewise, the PlastiVan program has been running for more than 20 years now and is obviously still going strong. No matter how many trade shows are held each year, it’s usually not very feasible to expect schools to bus their students out for a field trip. Fortunately, with programs like RIF and PlastiVan, they don’t have to.