Students, faculty and campus visitors will have the opportunity to witness the pyrotechnics and practical applications of chemistry Friday at the 25th annual Chemistry Circus. The event is sponsored by the Chemistry Club and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Students from the chemistry department will put on acts using science to inform and entertain, said Dr. Eric Hardegree, professor of chemistry and advisor of the Chemistry Club. Students will explode gases, generate multicolored flames and make ice cream using liquid nitrogen.
David Kempe, senior chemistry major from Tulsa, Okla., will be making molten iron by mixing and heating two powders during his act. This will be the third Chemistry Circus Kempe has participated in, and he said the fire and explosions are always his favorite part of the event.
“You get a lot of good squeals from the audience,” Kempe said. “It’s a good way to do some chemistry outside of class.”
The circus will also feature a duel between two chemistry professors who will compete to put together the most exciting experiment using vinegar and baking powder, Hardegree said. Hardegree has battled in such competitions before, but said he could not reveal whether he would participate in Friday’s contest.
Hardegree presented a chemistry demonstration 25 years ago at the very first Chemistry Circus and has participated in almost every circus since, he said. The chemistry department has continued putting on the event because of its popularity – both with the audience and with the department, Hardegree said.
“It is lots of fun for the chemistry students and for the professors, and we always have a big turnout,” Hardegree said.
The circus also serves as a way to educate both the audience and the chemistry students, Kempe said. Students in Chemistry and Biochemistry Seminar, a course necessary for all majors in the department, are required to participate in the event.
Kempe is taking the class and said the Chemistry Circus fits well into the course focus of communicating and presenting about chemistry.
“An important aspect of that is communicating to someone who hasn’t taken many chemistry classes or who knows anything about it,” Kempe said. “It also gets people excited about chemistry.”
About half of the demonstrations will be put on by Seminar students and the other half will be performed by members of the Chemistry Club, Hardegree said. Kempe, president of the Chemistry Club, said the club hopes to put on another circus in the spring.
The Chemistry Circus will take place Friday at 6:30-7:30 p.m. in Walling Lecture Hall in front of the Foster Science Building.