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Open Lab Day Opens Eyes to Chemistry

Most moms tell their kids not to play with fire, but those whose junior and senior high school children attended Open Labs Days recently put that rule on hold. On May 12th and 19th, students from the community came on campus to complete hands-on lab experiments sponsored by Y-Chem, BYU’s Chemistry club.

Austin Gillespie, a recent graduate in chemistry education, started the day with a magic show presentation. After turning off the lights, Gillespie traced “Welcome to BYU” with a powerful blu-ray laser pointer onto aluminum foil and described the science behind it. Students gasped in reaction, “Woooaaah! That is awesome.”

Gillespie briefly discussed the history behind composition of pennies; before 1982 pennies were 95% copper, but after 1983 they became 97.5% zinc. Comparing zinc and copper pennies, he did a chemical reaction to oxidize a copper penny using nitric acid. After some colorful bubbling in the reaction, the two pennies had the same nitric oxide composition.

Afterwards, students rotated through several stations for flame tests, hydrogen-rocket launching, and other exciting scientific experiments. With Y-Chem student volunteers at every station, students observed safety rules and learned about chemistry, while having fun along the way.

“I’m excited to be here, I really enjoy Y-Chem,” Zach Stay, a Y-Chem volunteer, said. “I wish I’d known about Open Lab Day when I was in junior high.”

High school students in attendance also had the opportunity of touring some of the chemistry labs in the Benson building. To conclude, attendees were treated to delicious liquid nitrogen ice cream.

The event’s objective was to give students exposure to chemistry in a fun way. For those participants currently enrolled in chemistry classes, Open Lab Days provided a review of some concepts as well as presented some new ones.

“My son’s in chemistry right now, so I wanted to give him a chance to see these things and maybe even improve his grade,” Lon Franson, a parent at the event said. “It’s been a really neat event.”

By Alysa Kleinman Posted on