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Energy and U draws 5,000 young people to campus, May 19-23

Next week, May 19-23, 5,000 students from throughout the Twin Cities metro area will be treated to Energy and U—an energetic and informative outreach program. Flames, rock music, and screaming gummy bears—they're all part of this unique and fun University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering outreach program that aims to interest young people in science.

"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. The shows include pre-test and post-test assessments via electronic clickers that show if they students understand what energy is and isn't.

May presenters include professors David Blank, Renee Frontiera, Christy Haynes, Marc Hillmyer, Connie Lu, Aaron Massari and Theresa Reineke, and lecture demonstration director Joseph Franek from the Department of Chemistry; professors Frank Bates, Aditya Bhan and Kevin Dorfman from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science; and professor Cari Dutcher from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Bates, Blank, and Hillmyer started the Energy and U program in 2006, and it has now grown with additional presenters, two full weeks of shows per year with three shows per day, and one or two special performances during the year. In 2013-14, it reached more than 10,000 students, with another 2,000 students on a waiting list for next year's shows.

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. On average, the majority of the schools have 40 or higher percentages of students of color and students living in poverty. Most of the schools would not be able to attend without reimbursement of their bus transportation costs. 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.