“It’s like Harry Potter!” yelled one student in delight as a tornado of green fire spun in the mesh tunnel at the front of the room. “Yeah, the Goblet of Fire!” another chimed in. This exciting spectacle wasn’t magic, though. It was all created by science.
On May 14 and 21, 2011, the Y Chem club, in conjunction with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, hosted local students ranging from fifth to twelfth grade at the second annual Open Lab Day.
Sponsored by the Central Utah Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS), as well as the BYU student chapter of the ACS, Open Lab Day encourages students to explore their interests in science. In addition to flashy displays like the colorful flaming tornado, an exploding Swedish Fish, and the creation of white-hot molten iron from rust and aluminum, students were also able to get their own hands on some equipment.
All of the students in attendance were able to perform three to four of their own experiments using BYU facilities. High school students received additional tours of the laser lab, wet chemistry organic lab, and nuclear magnetic resonance facility.
By preparing equipment and providing supervision, BYU student volunteers, like Sara Pratt from Las Vegas, ensured smooth execution of the day’s activities. For Sara, the time she donated was well worth the sacrifice.
“I think that chemistry is a very important subject for all students to know about, regardless of what they’ll end up going into,” Pratt said. “We tried to get students interested in chemistry and show them it can be cool.”
Sam Matthews, the vice president of Y Chem, enjoyed helping students discover a new side to science.
“[Open Lab Day] is an opportunity to help younger students experience chemistry for themselves,” he said. “A lot of kids’ exposure to chemistry is just through reading textbooks. We’re giving the students an opportunity to apply the things they’ve learned in their science classes and actually experiment for themselves.”
It seemed fitting that such a festive day should end with a sweet treat. But following so many chemical wonders, it had to be more than ordinary doughnuts or cookies. Delicious ice cream instantly frozen with liquid nitrogen met this challenge and received high marks of approval from grinning recipients.