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More than 5,000 students to attend Energy & U, Jan. 12-16

More than 5,000 elementary students in 3rd grade through 6th grade will attend next week’s Energy & U shows in 100 Smith Hall. Three shows are scheduled, Monday, Jan. 12, through Friday, Jan. 16, with performances at 9:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 1 p.m.

The show includes numerous explosions and bright flashes along with music that gets the students and professors dancing. The majority of the demonstrations involve student volunteers from the audience. With the primary goal of exciting the students about the idea of going to college and pursuing a career in science and engineering, there is also an underlying message concerning the first law of thermodynamics, the scale of world energy use, and the significant energy challenges that we face. The students erupt when the professors ignite a six foot column of methane filled suds; jump out of their chairs and dance in the lesson that energy is the ability to do work; recoil and then cheer after a large hydrogen explosion; and yell "NO" when asked at the end of the show 1) Can you create energy? and 2) Can you destroy energy?

Each show is performed by two faculty members from the College of Science & Engineering. The Energy and U team includes Professors Aditya Bhan, Frank Bates, and Kevin Dorfman from Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, Professor Cari Dutcher from Mechanical Engineering, and Professors David Blank (Energy & U director), Renee Frontiera, Christy Haynes, Marc Hillmyer, Connie Lu, Aaron Massari, and Theresa Reineke. Joe Franek, Department of Chemistry lecture demonstration director, creates and prepares all of the demonstrations for the show. Eileen Harvala, Department of Chemistry communications coordinator, manages the logistics for the show, including the recruitment of schools. Recruitment is especially targeted at schools with high percentages of under-served minority populations and students who receive free or reduced-priced lunch—an indication of poverty.

With Physics Force performing on campus next week as well, it is working with Energy and U to offer a special extended learning experience for a group of 75 6th graders, Tuesday, Jan. 13. Students from Osseo Public Schools’ Palmer Lake Elementary School will have an opportunity to see both shows, have lunch with chemical, physics and electrical engineering undergraduate students, and visit either a physics or a chemistry laboratory.

With help from its sponsors, schools are reimbursed for most, if not all, of their bus transportation costs. Most schools would not be able to attend without this funding support. Sponsors include the National Science Foundation (NSF) Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), the NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP), Medtronic Corporation, Schlumberger, and the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) and its departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering & Materials Science.

Assistance throughout the week of shows is provided by Kelsi Klaers, CSE outreach coordinator, Jennifer Henderson and Laura Seifert from the CSP, Courtney Meekers from MRSEC, and undergraduate Kelly Horn.