We recently hosted 35 students and teachers from Ann Arbor Learning Community as part of Avomeen’s Chemistry is FUNdamental program. The program fosters interest in STEM fields from a young age by performing exciting demonstrations that feature 4 different concepts that are important in the field of chemistry.
Think chromatography is too advanced for elementary school students? Think again! The conversation started with one question: What do recycling and chromatography have in common?
We’ll give you a hint: They both rely on separating components based on their differences. Our scientists illustrated this by separating the red and blue dyes found in purple Kool-Aid with a simple toilet paper packed column! We rounded out the lesson by creating chromatography butterflies with markers, coffee filters, water and pipe cleaners.
What do polymers and a group of children holding hands in a single file line have in common? They are both made of repeating units!
After that concept was established, long strands of pink Nylon were created from an almost immediate reaction between hexamethylene diamine and sebacoyl chloride. The future scientists formed their human polymer chain again and learned how cross-linking makes a polymer stronger by grabbing onto non-adjacent “monomers”. They then got some hands-on chemistry experience by synthesizing “slime” and “silly putty”, which are both cross-linked polymers.
The chemical kinetics station was the crowd favorite! 2 demonstrations were performed, each with before-and-after sessions emphasizing the fact that reaction rates can change depending on various factors.
“Elephant toothpaste” was a popular demonstration highlighting how effectively a catalyst can accelerate a reaction. A foam resembling toothpaste is created when hydrogen peroxide rapidly decomposes into oxygen and water – and the oxygen gets trapped by soap bubbles.
Instant combustion and an intense flare were featured in the second demo where students learned about the difference in flammability between “regular” cotton and nitrated cotton.
Regular cotton burns somewhat slowly, but when nitro groups are added, it decomposes much more rapidly and releases oxygen. When the oxygen is so concentrated at the source of the flame, the result is…intense! The only thing that was better than the chemical reaction was the reaction of the students!
The cornerstone of every good lab is a rock-solid quality control department. At a station dedicated to quality assurance, students verified the quality of batches of M&Ms. Specifications were set for various characteristics, and “lots” of product were analyzed for each of the traits.
After weighing, counting the number of candies in each color, and checking for deformities, students issued their own official Certificates of Analysis for their bags of M&Ms.
We would like to thank the students, teachers, and parent volunteers from Ann Arbor Learning Community who participated in our program! We are looking forward to having another group of students join us again next year.