By Taylor Bryant
An estimated 1300 middle and high school students from Carroll, Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties visited the University of West Georgia for the first ever UWG STEM Week. Students spent the entire day engaging in various chemistry and physics experiments and demonstrations. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Our first UWG STEM Week was a huge success,” shares Dr. Sharmistha Basu-Dutt, UWG professor of chemistry and organizer of the event. “These students actively participated in exciting hands-on demonstrations to understand how abstract scientific concepts are applied in the real world.”
Students were separated into groups that rotated between demonstrations stations until each group experienced each physics and chemistry demonstration class. Demonstrations included physics concepts of mass, weight, forms of energy transformation and projectile motion with a trebuchet.
“Flying basketballs, footballs, lettuce and cantaloupes was really cool,” says Lithia Springs student Nana Zanlerigu. “How they let us participate was really awesome. I learned a lot about physics and would give the entire trip overall a nine out of 10.”
Chemistry demonstrations were just as engaging, including catalyzing the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide through the use of elephant toothpaste, combustion in a potato gun, colored flames using a variety of metals, burning money, liquid nitrogen, disappearing Styrofoam cups and several others.
“I enjoyed the field trip very much,” says student Jesus Macias. “My favorite part was the chemistry demonstrations. I never knew that stuff like nail polish remover could melt a styrofoam cup. I also liked the miniature physics lesson where we got to launch cantaloupes, lettuce and a ball on the trebuchet. It was really fun.”
“The students truly enjoyed their visit to the University of West Georgia,” continues Frankie Shaw, science department chair for Paulding County Schools. “The students enjoyed how they related the chemistry to the movies. The burning of the money was also exciting. Many of my students made comments about the ‘cube’ spinning. They were all surprised by their little shock too. They all liked going into the lecture hall and sitting in the chairs like real college students. I felt like the professors did a great job of relating to them and keeping the demonstrations exciting and relevant to their age group. We can’t wait to come back next year. ”
The professors allowed several students to volunteer to assist during the demonstrations, adding a different element of excitement for the students. “I enjoyed how all the presenters made all of the things interesting, like when one of them used a balloon to make their voice very high and the other presenter used a second balloon to make their voice very deep and spoke like Darth Vader,” shares Lithia Springs High School student Jesus Macias. “Overall, the trip was fun and actually informative!”
The demonstrations were conducted by five UWG professors – Dr. Megumi Fujita, professor of Chemistry; Dr. Spencer Slattery, chair of the Department of Chemistry; Dr. Douglas Stuart, professor of Chemistry; Dr. Javier Hasbun, professor of Physics; and Dr. Neal Chestnut, professor of Physics. The Admissions Office Ambassadors also assisted with the event, allowing students to get exposed to college life.
“This was a great opportunity to observe labs and activities in physics and chemistry,” adds Tatiana Kolykhalova, biomedical science instructor at Lithia Springs High School. “The students enjoyed watching the trebuchet launching balls and cantaloupe as well as all of the burning, glowing and explosions done during the chemistry demonstration in movie presentation. It was especially interesting to watch how physics and chemistry concepts were taught during the presentation in a way that caught the students’ attention. My students are still talking about the fact that gas expands because of the cannon that shot out paper towels at the students.”
“Many students, who visited a college campus for the first time, were eager to finish high school in anticipation of starting college and pursuing a career in the STEM disciplines,” says Dr. Dutt.
UWG’s Dr. Farooq Khan, dean of College of Science and Mathematics was in full support of STEM Week and funded the event. “I am ecstatic with this very successful endeavor, and I commend all my colleagues who organized this event to promote enthusiasm for the sciences among the young men and women in the region,” says Dr. Khan.