At WETLAB, we are often approached by members of the community who are interested in having one of talented scientists come talk to students about chemistry. We try to oblige as much as we can, and this year, we were able to do two completely different presentations for different classes.
First up was Andy Smith, our esteemed Quality Assurance Manager, who performed four “chemistry magic” experiments for 2-5 year old students at the Goddard School. The first experiment was a re-appearing ink sign. The ink was phenolphthalein indicator on paper, and once the paper was sprayed with Windex (making it basic) the message “Chemistry Magic” appeared. Next, he created a blueberry Kool-Aid drink that, due to an oxidation- reduction reaction, would turn from blue to colorless. With a quick shake of the bottle, it would return to blue for a few minutes before the reaction completed again. Third, he changed the color of a Bunsen burner flame to blue (with copper sulfate), orange (with sodium chloride), green (barium chloride), and brilliant red (with lithium sulfate). Last, Andy crushed aluminum cans by boiling a small amount of water in them to create steam. Once the steaming can is turned over in ice water, the instant cooling causes the cans to crush themselves!
The next was Ellen Messinger-Patton, Kat Langford, and Andrew Tobey, who showed a presentation on water purity to sixth graders. In order to show that tap water is just as safe to drink as bottled water, the kids compared and contrasted three samples, including bottled water, tap water, and an untreated sample from the Truckee River. They used odor, color, pH, metals concentration, and turbidity to determine which water sample was the cleanest. At the end of the hour, bottled water and tap water were a tie, and many of the kids agreed to try to drink tap water now. The WETLAB presenters also spent a small amount of time relaying the importance of conservation, and what our hydrologic system looks like in the Truckee Meadows.
At WETLAB, we think that science education is incredibly important. We are happy to foster the next generation of scientists, and show them that science is not only useful, but also really fun.