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Class Conjures Chemical Concoctions

Jan. 27 - Led by Dr. Matthew Saderholm, CHM 304, more popularly known as the Chemical Magic class, put on an amazing display of their chemical talents through pyrotechnics and chemical reactions.

Students participate in "Chemical Magic."

Offered during the Short Term semester, the Chemistry Magic class gave demonstrations of tricks they had learned, which took place at the Science Building. Such magical marvels performed included "Underwater Fireworks," the "Gummy Bear Terminator," the "Sugar Monster," "Thermite," experiments with liquid nitrogen, and "Exploding Two-Liters."

Dr. Saderholm has taught CHM 304 for two years now, and has been an assistant professor here at Berea College for seven years. Dr. Saderholm remarked, "These chemical demonstrations were basically too dangerous for us to take to local schools so my students wanted to have a chance to put on a show without the stops required if you don't have working fume hoods and chemistry labs." The class had already taken some of the less dangerous experiments to local fourth grade classes.

To get the show going the first experiment, lighting dry ice on fire, produced a beautiful glow and exclamations of wonder. Next came the "Underwater Fireworks," in which acetylene bubbles and chlorine bubbles reacted underwater to create flashes of light resembling fireworks. The "Gummy Bear Terminator," a favorite with the children in the audience, annihilated a gummy bear from solid to goo using heat and decomposition. The "Sugar Monster" was a mixture of sugar and a few other chemicals that produced a reaction which caused the mixture to turn black and to rise out of the beaker like a monster from the "Black Lagoon." Other favorites included the two outdoor experiments, one using Thermite reactions, and the other using bottles of soda pop. The Thermite reaction produced brilliant pyrotechnics and is commonly used in underwater welding. The "Exploding Two-Liters" were two bottles of soda on a small machine, shaking them at a fast rate. The contents inside proceeded to explode through the small punctured holes in the lid, spraying streams of the carbonated beverage high into the air. .

Moving back inside, the highlight of the presentation came when a "finger," actually a sausage in disguise, was frozen in liquid nitrogen and smashed with a hammer, upsetting the several children in the audience. After a quick reassurance, the group promised homemade ice cream for everyone.

For Kayla Meadows, a student in CHM 304, she said that the most important thing learned from the class for her was that "The choices we make for our future can be impacted by things we experience as kids. I know that I hated science when I was in elementary school because no one had made it interesting. I had never seen chemistry demonstrations when I was in elementary school, and it wasn't until high school that I really became interested in science to the point that I wanted to make a career out of it. So, maybe if science is made more interesting to students when they are young, maybe it might make more students interested in pursuing a career in the sciences."

Going along with Meadows and positively influencing children in schools, Zack Zimmerman, also a student, commented that "The most rewarding aspect of the class was seeing the children's faces as they watched bubbles explode or saw fire change colors. Their reaction to our shows and the realization that the work we were doing and the shows we were making were being greatly enjoyed by the children and might have a lasting positive impact on them made the entire class worth while."

Though fun and entertaining, according to fellow Chemagician Rachel Saunders there were a few challenges. "The most challenging aspect of this class was trying to make science both fun and understandable for fourth graders without losing the important chemistry concepts that were causing the experiments to happen," said Saunders.

In the end, the experience was rewarding for children and CHM 304 students alike, and even gave the BC students a small dose of celebrity status. David Foster said, "I enjoyed the kids telling me what they learned from our shows, and I also like the fact that they were interested enough to ask for our autographs."

Other class members in CHM 304 included Katie Clark, Ben Getz, Katie Johnson, and Oba Mandley.

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