October 27, 2011

Mad Science Party 2011!!!

Ahh...perhaps my favorite day of  October.  Halloween?  Oh, no.  Mad Science Day!  This was our second annual mad science party and it was a blast!  I wasn't sure I could come up with enough cool science demonstrations for a second year so I wasn't planning on doing it again, but I also hadn't realized how much the kids really loved it and looked forward to it.  So I sent out a very last minute invite to the friends that were here for the inaugural event and one family that couldn't make it last year.  We pulled it off!

I must say that the kids in our science party group are just spectacular!  The risk in doing this sort of thing with  group of kids as young as some of our Jr. scientists are is that if things get out of hand we can't play with fire.  Ya know?  There are only very certain kids you know you can play with fire around and that's pretty much how we select our guests for this party.  LOL!  I'm such a great role model.  Right?  Haha!  One of our older scientists - I think she's about 12 - wanted to light her own tea bag rocket but said she'd never set anything on fire before.  No?  Well let me show you how!  I did second guess that choice after the fact, but I'm pretty sure she's not the kind to go out and become an arsonist :)  I can see it now, her sweet mother crying, "She was such a sweet young girl but once Skyla showed her how to use a lighter, well, I just hope her cell mate is nice."  Anyway, we played with fire quite a bit, and some electricity, and we cut into cow eyeballs with exceedingly sharp tools and I'm pleased to announce that absolutely no one got hurt!

Our schedule for the day was as follows:

~Cow eye dissection: You can order preserved eyeballs for about $5 online (or if you're lucky, a local butcher.  We weren't so lucky).  And exploratorium has a great video tutorial on cow eye dissection  you can use to get the ball rolling (no pun intended).

~Invisible Firefighter:  light a bunch of tea candles, mix baking soda and vinegar, let the heavy carbon dioxide settle and then pour the invisible gas like a liquid over the flame and watch the candles go out.  I wrote the chemical compounds on the board and only briefly mentioned Newton's law of thermodynamics about how we can't create or destroy, but we can rearrange.  I pointed out that there was the same amount of each element on the back side of the chemical interaction as there was on the front side.  Then I decided that was enough real science talk and we did it!   My demonstration of this flopped in a major way.  But I let every kid do it themselves once and theirs all worked.  They were happy as clams about it and so supportive of each other.  Every time a flame went out, they all congratulated one another.  Such sweet kids!

~Tea Bag Rockets:  We did that thing where you open up a tea bag, dump out the tea, and light the tube on fire so that eventually it flies into the air while still flaming a bit.  Huge reaction on this one!  Huge!  Before we did it, we talked a little bit about how particles behave at different temps.  We acted it out, as you know I love to do.  We weren't going to act it out, but no one remembered what I taught them last year, so we did it again. As soon as we hugged, one little boy said, "Oh!  I remember this now!" and when I said be hot particles he shot right across the room!  Love it!  I demonstrated once, explaining what was going on at the particle level, and then let each one for them shoot a tea bag themselves.  Massive giggles and screams every single time!

~We electrocuted a pickle again.  Big shock.  I know.  But then the kids made pickle sculptures and placed the rods into the pickles themselves to test what arrangement might get the best glow.  This actually was way less fun than I anticipated.  They all pretty much just lit up in one spot.  But one girl asked how we might be able to make the electricity jump from one pickle to another one that it was not directly touching.  Then, can we put some kind of metal between them and see what happens?  I consulted with the other mom as to whether we thought this was safe to try, and then proceeded to let this girl arrange her own pickle experiment while the other kids put on eye wear and backed way up, screaming things like, "I'm going to die today!!!"  After checking to make sure that no metal was touching the nails, I plugged that sucker in and the results were rather interesting.  WE did get a little light in the same spot we had always been getting it, but bubbles formed around the places that the spoon (our metal bridge) was touching the pickles and we got a little more smoke and stink than usual.  The really weird thing was that the spoon was not hot at all after we unplugged it.  The pickles were steaming hot, but the spoon was still cold.  Really weird.  So it was fun to see the kids thinking up new questions and devising ways to test their guesses.

~Screaming ghost balloons:  We placed hex nuts inside of balloons and took advantage of centripetal force to slide them across the inside of the balloons and make a super annoying screaming/insect sound.  Remember the vuvuzella?  That annoying noise maker that almost ruined world cup soccer forever?  Same sound.  If you're a soccer fan, this is how to make your own vuvuzella.  WE saved this for last because I knew once we started it, that's what we'd be doing the rest of the time, and it was.

I want to keep doing this party each year, but who knows ow many years I'll be able to come up with novel and exciting science demos?  So, if you know of something crazy fun and science like we should do, drop me a note so that I can incorporate it!  And thanks to all of my scientist friends and acquaintances around the big old globe who sent me ideas for making this year's party a smashing success!  And thanks to Evelynda for taking pictures and video for us!  You all rock!!!!

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