A Spectacular, Super, Science Show


On November 22nd, after two days of no sleep, plenty of bagels, and a few too many juice­boxes, we presented eight episodes of the Lakeville South High School Spectacular Science show. During the school day we presented to all 1,855 students in our school, followed by our 6:30pm grand finale in front of the Lakeville Community, Lakeville, Minn. Before the sun set, we had displayed the incredible power of chemistry to over 2,700 Lakevillians of all ages.

We began each show with a grand welcome:  “Hello and welcome to Lakeville South’s Science Show 2013! Tonight I will be your MC….that is MC△T. During the next two hours, we will guide you through Moley Potter’s Chemistry Quest. Our line­up for tonight includes the Hydrogen Rocket, Vortex Cannon, Boo Bubbles, Flying Fish, Flaming Snowballs, Grain Elevator and much more. See before your eyes 140 film canisters shoot in the air, 20 balloons explode into fire, and a 50 gallon barrel implode with a few squirts of water…and let’s hope the electric pickle actually works! Put on your seatbelts and prepare to take a ride with us through pops, sizzles, crashes, and well…chemistry!”Swordfight

We are the AP Chemistry students (and ACS ChemClub members!) at Lakeville South High School. We performed 33 experiments in the amazing, the magnificent, the life-­altering Lakeville South Science Show (a.k.a. Chem Demo Day). Over the course of five November days we planned and perfected the most amazing display of chemistry the world has ever seen, with a Harry Potter twist.”

SnowstormAudience member Maddie (a 6th grader) said after the show, “It was way cooler than I expected. It really makes me excited to take chemistry in high school.” Lisa King, AP English teacher at LSHS commented, “I thought Chem Demo was great. I brought my 6th grade daughter for the second year in a row. She asked if she could bring a friend this year because it was so great the year before. I think that it does a lot to show younger kids how ‘cool’ science is and how many older kids are interested in it. The weekend after the show, she and the friend figured out how to make “monster toothpaste” and made several batches.”

It wasn’t only spectators that enjoyed DryIcethe Science Show. Current AP Chemistry
student (and talent behind Boo Bubbles), Annika Tureson, explained, “The demo was definitely the best thing we’ve done in AP Chem. It was super fun to do hands-­on experiments and teach others about chemistry.”

The 2013 Chem Demo went down in the books as a huge success…definitely thermodynamically favored. It is undoubtedly an experience we will never forget. Although a few presenters took away some scrapes and bruises, and one slightly singed shirt, no one will ever forget the message…Chemistry for Life.


The Top Ten Chemistry Videos of 2013

chemnews“Although it’s our mission at Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN)  to describe in words the wonders of chemistry, sometimes words just don’t do justice to the dynamics of a particular reaction or funky new material.”  So starts C&EN associate editor Lauren Wolf’s post on The Top Ten Chemistry Videos of 2013.

This time of year we find newspapers and magazines full of end of the year ‘Best’ lists, from The Ten Best Movies and The Ten Best Books to  The Ten Most Irritating Celebrities of 2013.

Newscripts is a very popular feature of C&EN.  It can be found every week on the last page of each issue.  Newscripts features two or three stories that capture the less serious side of chemistry.  Stories range from molecular models that look like animals to how to put holograms on hard candy.

The editors who put together Newscripts put together their list of favorite science clips for 2013.  They inclue an a cappella parody of Queen’s Bohemian Rapsody explaining string theory to an ultra-slow motion investigation of the ‘barking dog’ reaction to the video below.

Although some of the videos might not be suitable for classroom use (Should you Pee in the Ocean?), most will make for an interesting and educational addition to your next ChemClub meeting.  Check out the list.

University Professors Visit Villa Park High School ChemClub

The Villa Park ChemClub board and advisor with Dr. Haan
The Villa Park ChemClub board and advisor with Dr. Haan


One of the main focuses of the Villa Park High School (VPHS) ChemClub is to bring in guest speakers from California Universities to keep faculty and students current on ongoing chemical research. These interactions between these professors and the high school students are extremely valuable, as they humanize and personalize the next level of education our students are heading toward! We are so grateful for them taking the time to both lecture at our lunch meetings and spend time afterward with the students one-on-one!

On September 13th, Professor John Haan, Professor of Chemistry and Research Scientist at California State University, Fullerton, visited the VPHS campus to give a lecture on his research “Chemical Research on Direct Formate Alkaline Fuel Cells” which is supported by grants and nationally published in research journals. Dr. Haan and the students had much discussion about the green chemistry of the Fuel Cell and its application to actual hand-held devices. He had quite a crowd around him after the presentation!

The November speaker was Dr. Phil Janowicz, also from California State University, Fullerton, who has created not only a complete teaching program in Organic Chemistry with immediate responses to the student on bond angles and more, but most recently an eye-tracking system that allows him to study the student’s eye movements as they use the program so he can better understand how they are thinking and what they are looking at when they succeed or not. After the talk, Dr. Janowicz’s regaled students with stories of his undergraduate days back east at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) much to the delight of the current Club President and Vice President (who both applied to MIT and have already had their interviews)!

The VPHS ChemClub was founded last year and had a formal induction ceremony last spring to bring in the new Board members and award a scholarship to the founding President. The scholarship will be an annual event for the VPHS ChemClub President due to their work and commitment to the club in arranging speakers, and to Chemistry as a discipline, as all Board members plan post-secondary education and careers in this field. For example, this year’s President, H. Zhou, and Vice President, B. Gee, both scored 5’s on their AP Exam’s last spring, and are pursuing careers in science.

Celebrating NCW 2013 with a BANG! Bristol ChemClub Kickoff

I KatieHuntheaded to Bristol High School in Bristol, PA, to kickoff their 2013-14 ACS ChemClub with (and I mean this literally) a bang! This was my first chance to test my skill at “improvising” a chemistry presentation.

The room was packed with over 30 eager high school students, including ChemClub president, J. Crump and vice-president, S. Willis. They told me that ChemClub is by far the favorite after-school club at their school. The excitement was for the spectacular chemisty demonstration known as the Gummi Bear Terminator. Their club advisor, chemistry teacher William “Bill” Smith, is all about safety. So goggles were donned by all. In addition, the demo was setup in a hood. The students were awed by the amount of energy released from a simple Gummi Bear treat.


What’s in a theme?
Bristol NCWThe reason for my visit was to help celebrate National Chemistry Week (NCW). The theme of NCW 2013 was “Energy Now and Forever”. This theme focused on the sustainable role of chemistry in everything from energy conservation to energy generation. My ChemClub talk started with discussing cost-effective home energy improvements such as insulation, air sealing (sealing cracks and gaps), and cool roofs (solar reflective, white roof coatings) and continued on to rooftop innovations such as the Dow POWERHOUSE™ solar shingle. This last innovation strives to create a net-zero building envelope, in other words, to create a home or building that produces 100% of it’s own energy. How cool is that!! We also talked about Philadelphia’s effort to become the Greenest City in America, with a PLAN called GreenWorks Philadelphia, and programs like the RetroFIT Philly: Coolest Block Contest, which gives row home owners a chance to win energy-saving cool roof, air sealing and insulation upgrades for their entire block.

Improv Works:  the audience was engaged!
I thoroughly enjoyed spending an afternoon of “improv” with Bill Smith and his wonderful Bristol HS ChemClub students! It was my first chance to put my “Alan Alda Improv Training” to work.  No slides, just a few props, including a copy of Chemical & Engineering News (Jan. 1, 2007) and some cool-roof coated tennis balls!   I’m loving being an official “ACS Expert”!

Additional Reference:
Cool Roofs

ChemClub Makes a Difference

Students showing how the P&G Water Purifier Packs Work
ChemClub Members demonstrate the cleaning properties of the P&GTM Purifier of Water


The Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart chapter of ChemClub joined the “Coins for Cleaner Water Initiative” and raised almost $500, towards the ACS ChemClub goal of $5,000, through a sale of “Periodic Table Cupcakes” at the annual Science Fair. 

Members of the ChemClub also set up a demonstration table to educate Science Fair participants, judges, and families to the global impact of unsafe water wherein water-borne diseases kill more children than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. The chemistry students demonstrated how one water purification packet changes deadly water into drinkable water.

The ChemClub demonstration of the purification packet showed how quickly dirty water can be purified. Club members filled a one-liter Erlenmeyer flask with pond water then sprinkled fine dirt from school grounds into the beaker. After adding the contents of the purification packet to the flask, they vigorously stirred the water. The contents of the packet acted like a magnet, coagulating the dirt and contaminants while simultaneously chlorinating the water. Fifteen minutes later, the floc sank to the bottom of the Erlenmeyer flask and the water looked clear. Club members then poured the disinfected water through a filter to make it available to drink.

The Newton Country Day ChemClub raised funds to provide the Cleaner Water Initiative 11,428 water purification packets which will clean 28,570 gallons of water, enough for fourteen families in developing nations to enjoy clean water and protective health benefits for a year.