Monday, September 23, 2013

The Scottie Faire

Every year Gordon College hosts an event called the Scottie Faire where all the student-run clubs and organizations around campus can display what it is they do and recruit new members. The ACS table displayed a poster created last year which depicts just some of the activities that go on in this student chapter of the ACS; which includes attending guest lectures, tutoring, and Chemistry on the Quad to name a few.

It was manned by President Justin Andrews with help from Vice-President Sarah McCarron and Dalton Kinnard.

Sarah McCarron in the red and Dalton Kinnard in the white lab coat
But by far the our most effective method of drawing interest is through chemistry demonstrations. This year we exhibited two different experiments.

Because of the Faire's medieval theme, we decided on a demonstration related to the 'mystic art of alchemy' (from which early chemistry derives its roots). In 1982, the U.S. Mint changed the chemical composition from 95% copper and 5% zinc to 95% zinc and 5% copper by weight (new pennies are nothing more than copper plated zinc. The melting point of the zinc alloy is 419.5 C, well below that of a propane torch. By comparison, copper melts above 1000 C. So, when placed under a flame, the inner zinc alloy melts while the outer casing remains intact. The pennies can be dropped and the casing broken and the zinc alloy (silver) contrasts with the copper (brownish). It is fun and people get to keep the melted pennies. Plus, it feels a bit like alchemy.

Pres. Justin looking very excited about making pennies explode
Elephant toothpaste is an experiment done all over the country in the by teachers, professors and professional chemical demonstrators. It is a simple chemical reaction: Potassium iodide and hydrogen peroxide are mixed (in the presence of soap to create bubbles) and the result is a rising tower of soap suds water and iodine. Kids love the demonstration because we tell them it is what elephants use to brush their teeth (elephants have big mouths and big teeth after all, so they must need a lot of toothpaste). We do this demonstration because college kids like it too and because we get a chance to tell onlookers that this is the kind of demonstration that we do a lot when visiting classrooms.

From all accounts exploding pennies and elephant toothpaste worked! Our first meeting was attended by many freshman, more than a few of them outside the chemistry major. This looks like the beginning of a great year for the ACS!

A special thanks to Pres. Justin Andrews who wrote the explanations for the experiments.