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Energy and U: 'They were so excited about energy and science'

Explosions, flames, rock music and screaming gummy bears—they’re all part of a unique and fun University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering outreach program that aims to interest elementary school students in science. Energy and U is a specialized outreach program of the Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. It brings students to the University of Minnesota campus to learn about energy, 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 Professor David Blank, one of the creators of Energy and U, and its director.

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.

"I wish you could have been at Hilltop Primary School when the children arrived back from the field trip at the University," said Nancy Benz, principal of Hilltop Primary School. "They were so excited about energy and science. They couldn't stop talking about the experiments and what they learned! They absolutely loved it and one of the students declared he would do science all day, every day if it was like the program! What a connection you are making with this program. Our students would never have this opportunity to see science at such a vast, deep connection level! You taught them the scientific principles and yet intrigued them to learn more! Amazing."

"Thank you for having us today," Cindy Baar, 5th grade teacher at New Life Academy. "Your presentation was fantastic—great visuals, high impact, interactive, educational, and just plain fun! The students loved it, and one even said emphatically, 'This is the best field trip ever!'."

January presenters included professors David Blank, Christy Haynes, Marc Hillmyer, Connie Lu, Aaron Massari and Theresa Reineke, and lecture demonstration director Joseph Franek from the Department of Chemistry, and professors Frank Bates, and Kevin Dorfman from 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. Invitations were extended to all public and private elementary and secondary schools, online schools, and home school associations in the seven country metro area. The University of Minnesota Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and a generous donation from Medtronic, Inc. offset bus transportation costs for participating schools. This outreach program is also supported by the university's Center for Sustainable Polymers.

The Energy and U photos from the January shows are available on the ChemistryUMN Flickr. If you want to download, click on the photo, then the three small dots on the right-hand side, then choose your resolution. Photos from Monday taken by the college are available at

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