Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Science Camp: Day 1

Well, day one of science camp is done. The camp runs from 12:30PM to 5:30PM for 4 days.

Here is a summary of what went on at Summer Science Camp 2007, Day 1:

All 30 campers showed up. That was nice. They all got outfitted with a binder and name tag. Then we started with a bit of overview and a few ground rules (Safety #1, listen #2). We broke them up into 3 groups of 10. Each group has a counselor.

On day 1 they did chemistry, biology and robots.

In chemistry, I had them synthesize some paint pigments. We made Prussian Blue (KFe[Fe(CN)6]) from iron (III) chloride and potassium ferrocyanide. We made chrome yellow (ZnCrO4) from zinc sulfate and potassium chromate. We also made malachite (CuCO3*Cu(OH)2) from copper (II) sulfate and sodium bicarbonate. During all of the Chemistry we talked about reactions, precipitation, safety, measuring, keeping a lab notebook etc... After they made and filtered the pigments, they mixed them with some white acrylic paint and made a painting.

In biology they did tested for bacteria on their hands before and after washing. Some washed with soap, some without, some with antibacterial soap etc... The results should be in today.

In robots, the built some Lego robots and programmed them to do simple tasks.

The end of the day was spent collecting insects on campus. Each group set off to collect as many insects with as great a diversity as possible.

During snack time, I did a demo. I did the methanol cannon demo. It is simple. Using any plastic jug or bottle, about 5 mL of methanol is added to the bottle. Shake it up and add a match. The combustion is impressive. When you try to do it again, it doesn't work because all of the oxygen in the bottle is gone. This leads into a great discussion of combustion, fuel and oxygen.

As a little twist to the methanol cannons, I added boric acid to the bottle. This results in producing a green flame. I'm not sure exactly why, but it has to do with the formation of methyl borate esters. Regardless of the reason, it burns green. I made a video and when I have time, I will try to post that. Right now I'm busy getting ready for today.

So, day 1 of science camp ended. All the students (who were great BTW) survived and uninjured. That's always nice.

Look for another update tomorrow.

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