Spring 2011

A description of each of the classes in the pilot program follows below:

Chemistry

Module #1: Forensic Chemistry – Friday March 4, 2011

Several activities modeled after real crime scene practices were implemented (at a fifth grade class at P.S. 366) in order to show that science plays an integral role in detective work. Our members simulated a fake “crime scene” by presenting an incriminating letter, pens found at the crime scene, and actual fingerprints. The group explained that there are two types of fingerprints–visible and latent, and outlined the mechanism by which iodine crystals and superglue can make fingerprints “develop.” The incriminating letter was analyzed using chromatography to see which style of pen was used to write the letter, identifying the perpetrator’s pen. The students used cyanoacrylate (superglue) fuming to expose the criminal’s fingerprints, and compared patterns of the fingerprint they developed to the known fingerprint of the criminal to identify the perpetrator.

Module #2: Electrochemistry – Friday March 18, 2011

The group presented the idea of voltage by describing the concept of potential energy in an intuitive way, with everyday life examples of electric energy use. Static energy was contrasted (with the help of balloons) with dynamic electricity. This lead into a discussion about conductors and insulators, and the importance of having material through which electrons can flow. After experimenting with various vegetables to see which contained the most aqueous electrolytes to be able to conduct electricity, the group described Voltaic and Galvanic cells within the context of electrochemistry. To demonstrate, each group performed a spontaneous electroplating experiment, and a non-spontaneous electroplating experiment, with the help of CIC Power supplies, copper, and zinc.

Physics

Module #1: Mechanical Energy – Friday March 25, 2011

This module focused on forms of energy and their conservation. Our members explained the Law of Conservation of energy using food and money as analogies to help demonstrate the cycle and conservation of energy. They discussed the various forms of energy and noted how energy plays a critical role in the functions of many everyday items such as cars, telephones, and iPods. Our members and the students demonstrated mechanical energy and its conservation using rubber balls, which rebounded up to approximately the height at which they were released. The concept of friction was introduced in a simple, yet advanced, form by experimenting with a block released along an inclined plane at various heights, and graphing this height against the distance traveled. A generally linear curve was produced, and the mathematical concepts of angles and sin functions were discussed. The group concluded with a discussion about various space programs and the physics that they utilize.

Biology

Module #1: Bacterial Growth – Friday April 1, 2011
This module focused on different types of bacteria and their roles in human physiology. The group discussed the importance of good hygiene in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For the main experiment, the students prepared bacteria cultures by pressing their thumbs onto individual agar plates. There were four groups of thumbs, including (1) the control (unwashed hands), (2) those washed with soap and water, (3) those washed with only water, and (4) those “washed” with the alcohol based hand sanitizer, Purell. Another cell plate was prepared from cotton swabbed samples from around the classroom. The samples (all suggested by the students) ranged from the doorknob, to the keyboard of the school’s laptop, to a student’s head. After a week of incubation, the group observed the cultures and discussed which cleaners were more efficient in eliminating bacteria, as well as which surfaces contained the most bacteria.

Module #2: Mammalian Anatomy – Friday April 8, 2011
This module focused on the structure and function of the mammalian heart. Our members discussed the structure of the heart, the various, unique types of cells that comprise it, the electrocardio system that drives the heart, and the various features of the heart that allow it to function as the body’s blood pump. Our members then proceeded to guide the students through a dissection of sheeps’ hearts. During these dissections, the students identified the anatomical structures of the heart such as the aorta, vena cava, atria, ventricles, valves, nodes, arteries, and veins. They then were encouraged to think about how each of these structures contributes to the various functions of the heart. The students’ understanding was tested through an interactive SmartBoard game in which they dragged the label of each of the heart’s primary anatomical components to its proper location.

Engineering

Module #1: Bridge Building – Friday May 6, 2011

This module focused on the structural features of different types of bridges and the innovations behind their design. The group watched clips from The Magic School Bus, after which they discussed the shapes and sturdiness of various bridge types such as Arch, Beam, Suspension, and Cable-stayed. The students then divided up into groups and used their newfound knowledge to attempt to construct the sturdiest possible bridge out of ordinary supplies such as gum drops and toothpicks. The students competed to see who’s bridge was the sturdiest, as well as who’s was the most efficient.

Module #2: Electrical Engineering – Friday May 13, 2011

In the final module of the year, the students assumed the role of electrical engineers. We investigated basic electronics concepts and introduced the students to several circuitry components including resistors, LEDs, capacitors and wires. We explained how the motion of high energy electrons through these components is somewhat like cars on a highway, generating usable energy. Using circuit boards, students learned the basics of short circuits, tested resistors in series and in parallel, and observed the decay of current through the charging of a capacitor.

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