Friday, August 2, 2013

Presenting at the Generations Symposium

The Generations Symposium Presenters
The Generations Symposium is a special event at ChemEd in which young teachers and students work with mentor teachers to present chemistry demonstrations.  Micaela and I were fortunate to have the opportunity to participate this year in Generations.
Micaela doing the Singing Flame Tube demo.  It was a huge hit!
We were the lead-off group for the symposium because we were a last minute addition to the program.  When I introduced Micaela to the packed crowd, and explained that she was just hired to teach chemistry only three weeks ago, she got a huge round of applause.  I must say that she was an incredibly good sport about the presentation, seeing as I only told her about it after we arrived in Waterloo.  And, I think she had a lot of fun doing the demo.
Charging the tube with rubbing alcohol.
We presented our "Singing Flame Tube" Demo to the group.  This demo is a nice (and safer) variation of the classic Whoosh Bottle demo.  I have an 8-foot polycarbonate tube that's about 2" in diameter, which I brought all the way from Pomfret for this event (it was totally worth it).  First you stopper one end, then pour about 50 mL of rubbing alcohol in the tube.  Next you stopper the other end, and twirl the tube for a few minutes to distribute the alcohol evenly and vaporize some of it.  Here's the most important step:  you must drain out the excess alcohol into a beaker.  Once you've drained the excess liquid, you hold the unstoppered, alcohol-charged tube over a candle.  It's a show stopper!

Andy and his granddaughter doing a demo together.
Another wonderful part of the Generations Symposium was Andy Cherkas's presentation with his granddaughter.  Andy is one of the "old-timers" at ChemEd, a teacher who's been part of this great conference since it began 40 years ago.  He and his granddaughter gave a fun presentation about the invisible spaces between molecules.  Andy is literally transferring his love of science to the next generation.

Star Wars Re-enactment through chemistry demos
The group from Duke University, led by Ken Lyle brought down the house with their Star Wars reenactment through chemistry demonstrations.  They presented a choreographed demo show, set to sound clips from the Star Wars movies, that included a battle scene with light sabers and the struggle between good and evil.  They used flame tubes, chemiluminescence, photosensitive tiles, a flame tornado, and hydrogen balloons in their presentation.  In a word, Awesome!

The Star Wars group had it all:  flames, glowing reactions,
hydrogen balloons, choreography and costumes!
The best part about the Generations Symposium for me was to see how young teachers and students are excited about chemistry education.