University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

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May Energy and U shows ignite students' interest in science

About 3,000 students from metro area elementary and middle/junior high schools, online schools, and home schools are expected to Energy and U shows at the University of Minnesota, Monday, May 16, through Friday, May 20. There will be two shows each day—one at 10 a.m. and one at 1 p.m.

With an educational slide show set to music, and some demonstrations that include loud explosions, bright flashes and flames, Energy and U ignites students' interest in science. It also brings students to the University of Minnesota campus, and gives them the opportunity to meet some university professors

"We try to emphasize that they, too, could do what we do every day," said Chemistry Associate Professor David Blank, one of the creators of Energy and U.

Energy and U shows focus on how energy can be stored and interconverted in many ways, and that chemical conversions play a key role. "We teach kids that they cannot make or destroy energy, they can just change its form," said Blank.

Energy and U is a specialized outreach program of the University of Minnesota's College of Science & Engineering (CSE) and its Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. Presenters include professors David Blank, Christy Haynes, and Marc Hillmyer, and lecture demonstration director Joseph Franek from the Department of Chemistry, and professor Frank Bates, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. Bates, Blank, and Hillmyer started the Energy and U program in 2006.

Outreach to schools with high percentages of students of color and students receiving free or reduced-priced lunch—an indicator of poverty—is an important component of the Energy and U outreach efforts. The University of Minnesota Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) offsets bus transportation costs for participating schools.

"Key criteria for MRSEC's involvement in outreach includes demonstrated quality, clear relevance to materials science and engineering, opportunities to engage under-represented communities, and cost-effectiveness," said Chemistry Professor Timothy Lodge who leads MRSEC. "Clearly, Energy and U satisfies all four of these."