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Chemistry students unite

February 25, 2015 In Lakeland University Blog
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Energy and enthusiasm coursed through Lakeland College’s natural sciences division on Monday, when about 60 Sheboygan Falls High School juniors and seniors spent the day engaged in various chemistry experiments.

The high school students separated into groups, then rotated from station to station for six 35-minute chemistry experiments conducted by Lakeland College Chemistry Club students.

“This was great experience for the high school students and our Chemistry Club students,” said Brian Frink, Lakeland’s professor of chemistry and physics. “The high school students were able to participate in lab experiences that otherwise would not have been possible in their regular school day. And our Chem Club students were able to share their passion for chemistry and develop their leadership skills.”

The following experiments were designed to introduce the Sheboygan Falls students to multiple applications of chemistry:

  • Virus – Students used acid-based chemistry modeling to mimic the spread of disease. Students were asked to think like health officials from the World Health Organization and determine the origin of a disease.
  • Toothpicks – In this experiment, the students broke toothpicks under various conditions to model how enzymes (the students) metabolize chemicals. For example, students soaked their hands in ice water in order to see how the metabolic pathway can change.
  • Mayo – The food science experiment involved students creating mayonnaise using olive oil, vinegar and egg yolk. The egg yolk contains lecithin, a chemical that acts like a bridge and holds the oil and vinegar together. Without the lecithin, the oil and vinegar would separate.
  • Quality control – Using an ultraviolet-visible spectroscope, the students analyzed the purple color in a fictional “Muskie-Ade” sports drink and determined how it was created.
  • Pennies – The students turned ordinary copper pennies into gold-, silver- and bronze-colored coins. These transformations occurred through galvanization and the formation of an alloy.
  • Nylon – The visiting students created and pulled strands of nylon from a chemical mixture. The students were then told about the differences between research and development (which has been mimicked during the experiment) and manufacturing.

Some of the Sheboygan Falls students also learned how to deposit metallic silver inside a plain Christmas bulb ornament to give the bulb a mirrored finish.

Frink said Jered McGivern, associate professor of biochemistry, played an integral role in the success of the collaboration. McGivern helped orchestrate some of the experiments, and provided troubleshooting throughout the day.

In addition to the experiments, the visiting students had the opportunity to learn about and witness Lakeland’s 3D printers in action, and toured the campus.

“This was a great example of a high school and Lakeland College partnering to create a unique learning experience,” said Jason Duff, Lakeland’s K-12 relations manager. “This is the future of education, where the barriers between high school and college come down and we work together to further education as a whole.”