UNO's Chemical Graduate Society Creates Fun at Super Science Saturday

Chemistry graduate students at the University of New Orleans stirred up curiosity last month creating "boo bubbles" and other experiments for budding young scientists attending Super Science Saturday at the Louisiana Children's Museum.

Super Science Saturday is an annual four-hour event at the Louisiana Children's Museum on Julia Street aimed at providing fun for all ages. The day kicks off National Chemistry Week and members of the Louisiana section of the American Chemical Society participate. The University of New Orleans Graduate Chemical Society participated in this year's Oct. 20 event with representatives from Dillard, Loyola, and Xavier universities, St. Charles High School, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the LSU Health Sciences Center and the American Chemical Society, which hosted a National Chemistry Week Table. Throughout the day, UNO chemists bubbled up fun for approximately 300 budding scientists, ages 3 to 10.

"We take part in this event because it gives members who might not be able to participate in some of the other outreach we do during the week an opportunity to volunteer and take part in outreach. Also we like doing science with little kids," said Maria Lindsay, a UNO chemistry doctoral student and president of the UNO Chemical Graduate Society.

"For me seeing the way the kids get excited about the activities and 'doing science' is what I get out of it. It brings me joy and reminds me why I fell in love with chemistry in the first place."

The Louisiana Children's Museum promotes hands-on participatory learning for children of all ages, helping to build social and cognitive skills, promoting child-adult interactions and encouraging discovery through observation, inquiry, creative construction, role-playing, problem-solving and free play. At Super Science Saturday, the UNO Graduate Chemical Society led three hands-on activities.

"Boo Bubbles" are a bubble solution made from dish soap and glycerin. By dropping dry ice into warm water inside a bubble-making apparatus, young chemists were able to blow smoke-filled bubbles with walls strong enough to allow them to hold the bubbles in their hands.

In a "Tie-Dye with Sharpies" experiment, young chemists stretched cotton squares over Styrofoam cups and secured them with rubber bands, then decorated the tops of the squares with dots and lines using colored Sharpie pens. When designs were completed, the young chemists dripped rubbing alcohol in the middle and watched the colors spread outward in a tie-dye effect.

To explore non-newtonian liquids, UNO chemists mixed cornstarch and water in a basin. A UNO speaker helped the liquid "grow" tentacles and prompted questions. Children brave enough to touch the mixture tested solids and liquids.

"Since most of the kids are 6-8 I think they really just get a good time from the experience," said Lindsay. "Hopefully this sparks an interest in science but at the very least I hope that they see that science isn't reserved for some old guy in a white coat, that if they want, they can do 'science' in their kitchen."