Chemistry and Biochemistry Club demonstrates cool magic, a.k.a chemistry, to area kids
Mix hydrogen peroxide and soap. What do you get?
About 100 elementary school kids wondering how that “magic” worked.
UW-La Crosse’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Club members call the mixture — an explosion of puffy foam — elephant toothpaste. It’s one of many tricks they have tucked up their sleeves to share with area kids throughout the school year.
UWL students and faculty advisors in the club organized a Halloween-themed Chemistry Magic Show at UW-La Crosse in October that attracted about 100 kids. Watch the local news coverage. UWL students also take their show on the road, traveling to where kids congregate, such as area schools and the Children’s Museum of La Crosse. In March, they brought a magic show to a local Boys and Girls Club — Schuh/Mullen Homes.
“All of the kids there were actually genuinely interested in it,” says Janek Walker, UWL biochemistry major and secretary for the club. “We’re giving everyone an opportunity to see how cool science is.”
The group also hopes their efforts encourage more young people to consider a future in chemistry, particularly kids in traditionally under-represented groups in sciences, says Basudeb Bhattacharyya, associate lecturer of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a faculty advisor to the group.
UWL student Elizabeth McMahon, the club’s next president, remembers her enthusiastic middle school and high school chemistry teachers who “would do cool experiments” – sometimes lighting things on fire. It’s what initially piqued her curiosity about chemistry.
“Even if these kids don’t want to go into a science field, I hope we can still inspire that passion and curiosity about how things work,” she says.
A kid’s science education connection in UWL history
Another scientist who engaged kids through fun experiments was UWL Alumnus Donald Herbert, ’40. Also known as “Mr. Wizard,” Herbert conceived, wrote, starred in and produced the NBC hit series “Watch Mr. Wizard,” which ran from 1951 to 1965. Herbert became known as “America’s Favorite Science Teacher” by millions of admiring viewers for 14 consecutive years, according to the Mr. Wizard Studios website.
Chemistry and Biochemistry Club
UWL’s Chemistry and Biochemistry club is always looking for new members. In addition to outreach, the group provides students networking opportunities with professionals in the chemistry and biochemistry fields who regularly speak to the group. To learn more about the group contact Chemclub@uwlax.edu.
The group plans to continue chemistry magic shows next school year and is now applying for a grant from the American Chemical Society to purchase chemistry kits to give away to kids at future chemistry shows.
Chemistry and Biochemistry Club 2016-17 officers and advisors:
- President: Nicole Nelson (senior, graduating May ’17)
- Vice-President: Hannah Piper (senior, graduating May ’17)
- Secretary: Janek Walker (senior, graduating May ’17)
- Treasurer: Elizabeth (“Hatch”) McMahon (currently a junior)
- Outreach/Volunteer Coordinators: Kathleen Becker (currently a junior) and Brandon Noble (senior, graduating May ’17)
- Historian: Andrew Pitney (currently a junior)
- Advisors: Nadia Carmosini, Ben Haenni, Basu Bhattacharyya