Saturday, March 28, 2015

Expo Aims to Teach Kids Science and Math Can Be Exciting

Bonnie Breland and Justin Williams demonstrate their
experiment during the Math and Science Expo Thursday.
Whoever said science and math can't be fun obviously has never tried burning materials soaked in rubbing alcohol or mixed a variety of food with liquid nitrogen. It's actually a lot of fun.

That was the whole point of this week's annual Math and Science Expo at Vol State. Each year both departments host a day of hands-on experiments to engage with area youth, hopefully sparking an interest in math or science at a young age. The Wallace Building was filled with about 100 different experiments both kids and adults could wrap their hands around.

"You've got college students engaged in science education and math education reaching out to a much younger audience from elementary and middle school, so it's a totally different kind of engagement," associate professor of chemistry Paris Powers said.

In one corner of one of the science labs, Bonnie Breland, Justin Williams, and Taylor Wiley were busy burning dollar bills that had been soaked in a 50-50 mixture isopropyl alcohol and water. Kids were amazed when the bill remained unharmed after being lit on fire.

"We wanted something quick that we could reenact many times over without using a whole lot of supplies, plus kids like fire," Breland said. "I know they don't understand everything that's going on in these experiments, but it catches their eye and they get an interest in science and maybe they'll have a career in it later on."

In another room during the expo, Holly Guldeman and Dustin Jones were busy demonstrating how the diaphragm worked using a model built of a water jug, balloons, and a Darth Vader mask. As expected, the demonstration went over well with the kids, which was exciting for science students such as Guldeman and Jones.

"I never got to do anything like this when I was a kid, but science in general isn't appreciated enough, so it's good to start when they're a little kid to help learn that appreciation," Guldeman said.

Jones agreed with his partner.

"We can put it on a level that they understand, because if you really dive deep into all this stuff, it's really complicated. We take those ideas and put it in simple terms that gets them interested and excited about science," he said.

For more on the expo, check out this gallery of photos from the event.

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