No pillar was turned into salt, but it was close.
To mark National Chemistry Week, the Augustana College student chapter of the American Chemical Society threw its semi-annual open house Saturday afternoon for the 24th year.
The screen on the wall announced the objective: “Explosions, Fire and Toothpaste.”
“It’s nice to get young kids excited about chemistry. It’s a growing field, and people need to learn about it when they’re young,” said Matt Humphries, a senior from Rockford and president of the college’s chapter.
Almost 60 children, from ages 3 to 15, with their parents, helped fill a science auditorium-style classroom at Augustana’s Hanson Hall. Before the display was over they saw fiery jack-o-lanterns, burning money, and ate instant “ice cream.”
The first experiment the students performed ended up with a lot of a pink substance flowing out of a big beaker, looking like the “elephant toothpaste” previously promoted. Another one referred to all the molecules which force a soda can to keep its shape, but not so if the can is boiling hot and then submerged into cold water.
Liquid nitrogen was shown to shrink a balloon, but away from it the balloon resumed its full, filled shape. Another experiment showed a flower being dipped into the nitrogen, hardening it, and allowing the flower to then be “broken.”
Four girls from Dan Olson’s science class at Wilson Middle School in Moline were furiously taking notes. They admitted they were here for the extra credit Olson offered, but said they enjoyed the displays.
Kelsey Baker, 12, was enthralled with the liquid nitrogen exhibit, saying Mr. Olson hasn’t covered that yet. Mihika Rajvanshi, 13, said, “I learned about combustion and how hydrogen and oxygen make water.”
Mihika added that “science is a growing (jobs) field and the world will be governed even more by science.”
Humphries said most of the career fields in the physical sciences are tough to get into but he added that he saw an Internet survey stating that “Chemistry” has the fourth lowest unemployment rate.
Andrew Ellison, 13, also from Olson’s class, said he, too, enjoyed the liquid nitrogen demonstrations … and learning that 128.6 degrees below zero is the lowest temperature ever recorded. He added that he’d like to learn more chemistry.
The audience’s eyes got bigger when a dollar bill was coated with alcohol and water, and then lit with a match. The alcohol burns off, leaving just the water with the bill intact.
That impressed grade-schooler Hunter Davis of Rock Island, who said he learned that “Things can catch on fire without really burning.”
Maybe the most “magical” experience was when an Augie student dropped broken glass into a container of canola oil, only to pull out a small glass beaker. The oil created an optical illusion so the beaker isn’t seen until removed.
In the end, some cream, half & half, sugar and strawberry jelly were mixed, and within minutes, out came strawberry ice cream. Aaron Trelstad, 8, of LeClaire ate it all but admitted “it wasn’t as good as Whitey’s.”
The Augie chemistry students agreed with that taste test result, but said while “Whitey’s has a few years (experience) on us we can make it faster.”