North Central College - Naperville, IL

Chemistry club holds demo day for National Chemistry Week

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Chemistry major James Davidson ’13, far right
Chemistry major James Davidson ’13, far right

North Central College’s chapter of the Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) hosted a demonstration day as part of its National Chemistry Week activities Thursday, Oct. 20.

Students in SMACS and faculty advisor Paul Brandt (photo, left), professor of chemistry and chair of chemistry and physics, performed 12 different experiments for the event in front of a handful of North Central College students.

“I thought the demo day went pretty well,” said Cassandra Schneider ’12, president of SMACS and a chemistry major. “There was a better turnout than I expected. Keith Kostecka was also there so it was great to have him.”

Kostecka is chair of the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society and associate professor of chemistry and environmental science at Columbia College in Chicago.

Following the “elephant toothpaste” lab that exhibited the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide through a reaction resulting in what appeared to be a large amount of toothpaste spewing from a graduated cylinder, Kostecka described a similar lab that involved using a flaming wood splint to show the decomposition.

The program also included labs that involved keeping a towel dry even after being submerged in water, shrinking a balloon and shattering a rubber ball with liquid nitrogen, making silly putty from baking soda and borax, and shaking a “magic” bottle of liquid to change the color of the liquid into red, yellow and green colors of traffic lights.

Chemistry major James Davidson ’13 conducted an alchemy-inspired lab to turn copper pennies into gold and silver colors. The experiment involved submerging pennies in a solution for several minutes and removing them to see a silver-colored penny, which is in fact coated with zinc. Turning a penny gold involved heating a zinc-coated copper penny to form a brass plating.

“My demo took a great deal of patience, but I thought it went quite well,” Davidson said.

SMACS is a dynamic student organization that’s involved in a number of events and activities and gives students opportunities to engage in independent collaboration and see results firsthand. The primary commitment for members of the organization, however, is taking part in school visits. Members of SMACS frequently visit nearby elementary schools and middle schools to hold demonstration days for younger students.

“We’re doing more demos this year than ever before,” Brandt said. “Schools have been asking for us to come back.”

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