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Amidst shattered fruit and gummy bears, Cece Burkey '15 works with young audience members to cause a blue chemical reaction.

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Middlebury Students Share Chemistry Magic with Local Kids

November 14, 2013

The five Middlebury chemistry students could have been magicians for the wonder they stirred (and mixed and detonated) before a crowd of Addison County kids on Wednesday night at McCardell Bicentennial Hall. In an evening titled "Alchemistry pHun! An Exciting Demonstration of Chemical Experiments," the students delivered a steady stream of colors, sounds, smells and laughs to the eager audience.

David Stillman '14 and Peter Hetzler '14 create a green fireball by igniting a hydrogen balloon.
Shannon Reinert '15 offers a close-up of a quick crystal she created with a chemical reaction.
Alex Scibetta '14 creates an orange ooze to the delight of her young assistants.

"We do this to try to get kids involved in chemistry at a young age and try to make it fun for them," said Alex Scibetta ’14. "I know the word 'chemistry' kind of has some negative connotation around it, but it's really fun to get the kids involved and to try to explain concepts in a simple manner."

As the show began, the Middlebury students wheeled out a lab table with five different plates of dry chemicals. David Stillman ’14 gave the young audience a quick description of white light before igniting the plates into five colorful flames. Stillman said that the beautiful white light had been split into five colors and that the rest of the evening would be a quest to retrieve the colors and reunite them into white light.

Each of the ensuing experiments — some messy, some loud, some beautiful — helped to recapture one of the missing colors.

The most popular hands-on stunt of the evening was a set of demonstrations with liquid nitrogen, showing the results of instant freezing on such objects as bouncy balls, gummy bears, balloons and a banana. Kids from the audience were invited up to shatter frozen apples and oranges with a baseball bat.

At the end of the evening, in a tasty encore, the liquid nitrogen made a second appearance as a key ingredient for instant ice cream, which was enjoyed by all.

With reporting by Stephen Diehl and photos by Matt Lennon ’13.