Science emporium gives students a look at college

Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2004

FAIRBANKS (AP) A pair of forks with wires extending from their ends was the centerpiece of the ''electrifying glowing pickle'' display at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

As high school students watched, UAF student Kenny Sweet turned a switch and sent current through the forks and a pickle they held. The pickle sizzled and spit and an orange light flashed inside. The light, Sweet explained, was sodium burning inside the pickle.

''This is actually pretty cool,'' he said. ''We can actually show we have learned something in the class.''

More than 100 Lathrop High School and UAF chemistry students converged on the Natural Sciences Facility on Thursday for the annual Science Emporium, an hour of exploring chemistry.

The event allows college students to demonstrate their understanding of chemistry and gives high school students a glimpse of what to expect in a college science class.

Both groups did projects and presented results of their research at stations spread throughout a second floor corridor.

One group handed out Dixie cups full of ice cream made at room temperature with liquid nitrogen. Down the hall, a pair of students blew up eggs in a microwave. At another display, students investigated the chemistry of homemade root beer and offered samples.

The UAF Chemistry 103 class has been putting on the emporium for several years, according to associate professor Kelly Drew.

''This is the first time we've had a high school participate with us.''

The event allows students to demonstrate their understanding of chemistry in a hands-on way, Drew said, and the high school students have the chance to get a taste of college science.

''Before it was just classmates,'' she said. ''(Now) they get feedback from a wider range.''

Lathrop science teacher Dave Boyd said the interaction is beneficial to his students. In addition, he said, presenting their projects gave students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.

''That's being a teacher,'' he said. ''The value of having to explain something .... (is) you have to know it.''

Though she has done class presentations before, UAF student Johanna Fritsche said she really had to understand the science behind her flexible chicken bone experiment she soaked them in vinegar to make them that way to explain it to others.

''Through explaining it a million times I figured it out,'' she said, laughing. ''I understand it a lot better than I probably ever wished to.''

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