Future scientists: high school mad scientists at UWS

Liquid nitrogen ice-cream, permanganate fire and slime sound like creations straight out of a mad scientist's laboratory but 180 students across South and Western Sydney will get to indulge their passion for science and bring these creations and much more to life on the 6 to 8 December, 2011.

The Year 8 Gifted and Talented Science Days, a combined initiative between the University of Western Sydney and Lachlan Macquarie College*, will be held at the university's Parramatta North campus.

Associate Professor Gary Dennis, from the UWS School of Natural Sciences, says the days are very important as they allow the students to do a range of experiments that would be impossible to attempt in their own classroom.

"Although theory is important, doing experiments to discover new things are what encouraged me to become a professional scientist. I believe the students will get an enormous amount out of the hands on activities they complete at UWS and perhaps be inspired to pursue a career in science," says Associate Professor Dennis.

"The Gifted and Talented programs demonstrate that science is fun, interesting and relevant to the students. We have had fantastic success with this program growing 300 per cent."

On each of the days a different group of schools will participate in fun, hands on experiments in the theme of 'Create, Cool and Colour' that allow students to investigate different aspects of science.

Interactive experiments will include:

  • Slime: the effect of crosslinking agent, borax, on solutions of poly(vinyl alcohol);
  • Crystal garden: growing plant-like coloured shapes from inorganic salts in a solution of sodium silicate;
  • Liquid nitrogen ice-cream: how to make ice-cream extremely quick;
  • Carnations: changing the colour of carnations demonstrating the movement of water in plants; and
  • Colourful chromatography: using chromatography to separate the coloured components of food dyes.

Associate Professor Dennis says the students get the opportunity to talk to UWS staff about science, and understand the principles behind each experiment.

"They also take home the products of some of their experiments - slime, crystal gardens, and coloured carnations - but they have to eat the liquid nitrogen ice-cream before it melts," says Associate Professor Dennis.

"We hope that this program encourages students to continue their science studies at school, and to increase their interactions with professional science organisations such as UWS."

* Lachlan Macquarie College is a dynamic centre of excellence producing enhanced student performance in mathematics and science.


30 November 2011

Contact: Kristy Gleeson, Media Officer