National Chemistry Week Takes Center Stage

Combustible balloons, laser-initiated explosions and nitrogen-frozen zucchini invaded the campus of BYU during National Chemistry Week.

People of all ages gathered to learn more about chemistry and how it applies to our lives and our world. Faculty and students in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry showcased fun chemical demonstrations ranging from sucking the air from a Twinkie to vaporizing a Swedish Fish.

“It’s kind of an outreach to the community, just to let people know that chemistry is interesting and exciting and fun,” said Austin Gillespie, a senior majoring in chemistry education.

Matthew Asplund, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, presented one of Monday’s chemical magic shows. This year’s theme, “Chemistry – Our Health, Our Future!” focused on how chemical reactions play a role in our personal health and energy.

Asplund explained how energy from food helps us run and how the clothing we wear is modified by chemistry. Because scientists have learned to change the chemistry of each of the individual fibers in our clothing, we are able to have no-wrinkle shirts today.

“I think it’s an opportunity for kids to see that science can be fun,” Asplund said. “One of the big driving forces right now is that schools, because of budgets, . . . are having to cut a lot of their hands-on stuff that they used to do. And a lot of these things just couldn’t be done in a school environment.”

This free event continues to attract families every year and to help children understand the importance of learning chemistry.

“It’s just something we thought we’d take our kids to and see what was going on,” said Lee Dickerson, who brought his family from Orem, Utah. “It was fun. We enjoyed it – enjoyed the whole thing.”

By Chris Scheitinger Posted on