Friday, June 15, 2007

Science Camp: Day 4

Day four, the final day.

One thing I have learned is that running a Science camp or any camp for 5th to 8th graders is exhausting. By the last day, I am running on fumes.

On the last day, we started by finishing their egg drop devices. They had an hour to finish, test and weigh in their devices. From there we moved to the separate sections.

In chemistry we analyzed the stained DNA agarose gels. We found out suspect 3 was guilty. We promptly sent him off to the death chamber.

Then we synthesized aspirin. 0.5 grams salicylic acid plus 1.5 mL acetic anhydride and 3-4 drops phosphoric acid. Heat at 80°C for 5 minutes. Add water and cool. This is a bit of an advanced lab, but they seemed to enjoy it. The underlying beauty hidden on the molecular level escapes them, but it is cool to see white crystals form from a clear solution.

The demo of the day was gummi bear oxidation and thermite. The gummi bear oxidation was done by adding gummi bears to molten potassium chlorate (KClO3. it shoots off some nice flames.

Thermite is the reaction of iron (III) oxide and aluminum metal. It produces molten iron as a product. This time I did my biggest one ever. I used about 1.3 kg of iron (III) oxide and 400 g of aluminum. It took a few attempts to ignite and it worked almost great. I say almost because some of the mixture got blown out of the flower pot holding it before it got a chance to react.

I promise to show a video of this once I find that stupid firewire cable for my video camera and can load it onto my computer. I've looked everywhere. Does anyone know where I put it?

We ended the camp with a picnic for the campers and their families. We had about 100 people show up. We started with the egg drop competition, then we ate, had a small awards ceremony, and that was it. Science Camp was over.

Time to start planning for next year.


Liberal Arts Chemist said...

Wow, I have run a week of labs for homeschooled students at the high school level for the past 8 years and can relate. The students I work with are a bit older and we try to run the labs as more of a teaching/learning experience with lab reports etc. The big demo for our week is the one litre pop bottle half full of liquid nitrogen at the bottom of a barrel of water. It is indeed a funny kind of exhaustion when you are not teaching "students". There is usual regional omniscience that you have to have in your regular labs coupled to the constant concern that these are younger kids that are not as responsible as your usual students. It seems like carrying a burden all week but it is a good feeling when all the little things pull together and you get to the end of the week without calamity.

Well done. We are not paid to do it but you gotta believe it is good for our souls. And you know, the Administration views such volunteer work as triple overtime in terms of service work.

Matt Jenks said...

I assume that you had a solution of phosphoric acid and not PPA. I could see you all afternoon trying to get them to get "a few drops" of PPA into the mix. Nasty stuff, that.

Well done on another successfully run science camp. It sounds as though no one lost and eye, so it remained fun and games.