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Project iLASER is an endeavor to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry, supported by a generous grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (grant no. CHE 1118663).

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Learning in Las Cruces

This blog entry was created in a hotel room in El Paso, TX.

Two fine Project iLASER events were held in Las Cruces this week.  One event was held Monday September 26th at the Main Clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Club of Las Cruces, and the other was held on Tuesday September 27th at a satellite site of the Boys & Girls Club located at Mesilla Park Elementary School.  A reporter from the Las Cruces Sun-News stopped by the event on Monday and posted a brief ARTICLE and a couple of photos of the fun we had that day.  That same article was picked up by the El Paso Times.  The event was also announced on the website for the United Way of Southwest New Mexico.

I was super-busy during the event at the Main Clubhouse and wasn't able to take many photos.  However, Club Program Director Brian Johnson took several photos, and I'm grateful to him for providing them to me.  However, at Mesilla Park Elementary School event, I had help from a Club volunteer known as "Mr. T." who snapped a few photos, and once I got the children started on the solar-hydrogen activities I was able to grab some great snapshots myself (great due to the subject, not the photographer!).

Some snapshots from the event at the Main Clubhouse

We're preparing to build some dye-sensitized solar cells to capture some of that abundant Las Cruces sunshine and convert it to electricity.

These Las Cruces solar scientists have dyed the titanium dioxide on one electrode with blackberry juice and are now at the point to assemble it with the counter electrode coated in carbon (candle soot).  Soon they'll have a finished product ready for testing in the sunlight.

Before heading out into the sunshine to make the photovoltaic (converting light into electricity) measurements of the solar cells they constructed, these scientists are learning about making electrical measurements with multimeters using batteries.  They already know that batteries make electricity.  Building on their prior knowledge that experience can be extended to the production and measurement of electricity from a photovoltaic source.

Preparing to make a measurement of the home-made dye-sensitized solar cell.

How 'bout that?  Another successful solar cell has been built!
Hey, let me have a look, too!

Photos from Mesilla Park Elementary School

The group at the Mesilla Park Elementary School event was on the young end of the spectrum of solar scientists --- mostly 6 to 9 year-olds.  However, I'm a firm believer that youthful curiosity is the driver of innovation and discovery, and children of this age group are excellent recipients of the message of the importance and excitement of scientific exploration.  I believe the photos below are evidence to support my claim.

Here's part of the Mesilla Elementary crew of solar scientists.

One of the favorite demonstrations is shining green and red laser light through green and red gummy bears.  It's a wonderful way to demonstrate how we see color and the concept of complementary colors and the basic color wheel.

No gummy bears were injured in this demonstration of light, color and vision!

Connecting the lasers & gummy bears experiment to the color wheel.

Once we learned a bit about the nature of light & color, we can explore how light can be applied for important uses, such as medical applications (and ultimately culminating with experiments that demonstrate the potential of using sunlight to power the planet).  Everyone had an opportunity to measure their levels of oxygen saturation in the blood, and, after the lesson about complementary colors, these children were very readily able to predict which color of light (red) would be used in the pulse oximeter!

He had 98% oxygen saturation in his blood - the picture of health!

These two solar scientists worked together to rearrange the atoms in models of two water molecules.

The two children in the photo above rearranged the atoms in models of two water molecules, joining hydrogen exclusively with hydrogen and oxygen exclusively with oxygen.  They ultimately made two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen.  They next allowed sunlight to rearrange those bonds in water "for real" and then used the hydrogen produced through that process to power electronic devices (flashing LEDs) using a hydrogen fuel cell.  Furthermore, twice the volume of hydrogen gas was collected in a syringe as the volume of oxygen gas collected.  The experiment matched the prediction shown with the models.  How cool is that?!

They're in a "zone", working diligently to capture some of the sun's energy and store it in the chemical bonds of hydrogen gas produced by splitting water with electricity produced by the solar panel.

There's six year old Emma showing her mom the potential for powering the planet with sunlight!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Doc!

    I'm glad things are going well with project iLaser.

    Stay safe and we'll see you when you come back.