Colorful Experiments Engage the Next Generation: Raytheon MathMovesU® Attends the AAAS Family Science Days
On February 16 and 17, 2013, Raytheon MathMovesU (MMU) participated in the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Mass. Thousands of participants from a very diverse audience visited the Raytheon MathMovesU® booth, and more than 700 elementary through high school age students learned physics principles by building and testing a hover-board. As part of the event, hundreds of participants watched a stage show where Raytheon volunteers created a dramatic chemistry experiment in keeping with the meeting’s theme: The Beauty and Benefits of Science.
The annual meeting of the AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society, draws thousands of participants from dozens of nations and provides a rich opportunity to reach curious students who may enter science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields. Raytheon engaged this next generation of scientists and engineers during the free, hands-on events of the meeting’s Family Science Days. An enthusiastic team of Raytheon volunteers guided students through a fun booth experiment about flight physics and performed a stage show featuring colorful chemical reactions.
At the MathMovesU booth, students participated in a hands-on project that allowed them to build a hover-board out of common household items — a blank compact disc (CD), a push-pull cap from a water bottle, glue, and a rubber balloon — and test it. Raytheon volunteers helped the students pump the balloon with air and glue the water bottle cap to the CD. Balloons were then attached to the water bottle cap. The students pulled the cap open, releasing the air in the balloon, and watched the CD appear to float over the table. The students learned that the floating effect was a result of air from the balloon flowing through the open bottle cap through the center of the CD, forming a volume of air under the CD. As the air flowed from the balloon, students enjoyed tapping on the balloon and watching their hover-craft float over the table.
The highlight was a Raytheon-led stage show titled “Science is Fun: A Beautiful Burst of Color Through Chemistry.” The stage show demonstrated how exciting chemistry and science could be via a dramatic, colorful experiment. Students learned how combining two solutions can produce a heat-producing, lively eruption of oxygen-filled foam that looks like a giant stream of “elephant toothpaste.” The Raytheon team presented two experiments of this principle. The first used a low-grade hydrogen peroxide with yeast as a catalyst and demonstrated a repeatable, straightforward classroom experiment. The second, more dramatic, experiment used much stronger hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide solution as a catalyst. Food coloring was added to make the foam colorful. The first experiment produced a small amount of foam that simply bubbled over the top of the cylinder, but the second experiment produced large amounts of red, blue and yellow foam. The audience cheered as they watched the foam spill onto the stage. Steam could be seen exiting the cylinder due to the heat produced by the reaction.
Raytheon’s MathMovesU program is an initiative for increasing middle and elementary school students’ interest in math and science education by engaging them in hands-on, interactive activities. MathMovesU seeks to excite and motivate students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The program features interactive learning programs — including the traveling interactive experience MathAlive!™ and Raytheon’s Sum of all Thrills™ experience at Innoventions® at Epcot® — as well as scholarships, sponsorships and events.
Nora Tgavalekos, Ph.D., and Diane Mahoney