INCHES programFrom left, PhD student Zainab Bazzi and chemistry professor Rob Schurko watch as Assumption student Chau Nguyen removes a flower from a cooler of liquid nitrogen.

High school students conduct their own chemistry magic show

It’s one thing to watch a magic show, but quite another to perform the tricks.

A group of Grade 11 chemistry students found that out yesterday when they visited the University to see first-hand what it will be like if they decide to pursue the subject at the next level.

About 35 students from the International Baccalaureate program at Assumption College Catholic High School participated in the chemistry and biochemistry department’s INteractive Chem ExperimentS, or INCHES program, an outreach and recruiting initiative which provides them the opportunity to conduct experiments in the University’s chemistry labs. Those experiments used to be part of the department’s chemistry magic show, a program designed to wow high school students with the many wonders of the subject.

“You can talk and talk, but if kids get the chance to do these things themselves, then they’re really going to remember it,” said chemistry professor Tricia Carmichael, who oversaw the students, along with colleague Rob Schurko and a group of graduate students.

Some of the experiments included a lesson on cryogenics, where they got to freeze objects like bananas, balloons and flowers in liquid nitrogen. They also learned about combustion by burning substances like magnesium under a fume hood, as well as such subjects as thermodynamics, polymers, metals and alloys. After the experiments, they got to tour the facilities.

“This was a wonderful opportunity,” said Adam Mills, a Grade 11 science teacher who graduated from the University of Windsor in 2005 with a degree in physics, followed by a Bachelor of Education degree in 2007. “I had e-mailed Dr. Carmichael and asked if we could come for a tour and it snowballed into this. Grade 11 is when these students start to get excited about chemistry and it’s great for them to come here and see the kind of equipment and facilities they get to use at this level.”

PhD student Heather Filiatreault watches as Erika Nguyen burns a strip of magnesium.