Centre Hall Science Night offers ‘edible comet,’ ‘elephant toothpaste’
CENTRE HALL — The Centre Hall Elementary School held its second annual Science Night on April 12 at the school. The event, sponsored by the Parent-Teacher Group, featured 24 different groups displaying and demonstrating various aspects of scientific study.
“The purpose is promoting science and exposing kids to a lot of different fields and types of science,” said event organizer Heidi Peters.
The Science Night event included two dozen community businesses and organizations — including Penn State’s Astronomy Department and Materials Advantage Club, the Penns Valley Conservation Association, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and more — which hosted science-related interactive displays for students and their families. Also included were displays by students from Penns Valley High School and Penn Valley Intermediate School.
Ella Smith, a student at the intermediate school, presented a display that, by using partially darkened paper plates, depicted the various phases of the moon and described a lunar eclipse. She said she enjoyed interacting with the younger students and their parents.
Michael Rodruck, from the Penn State Astronomy Department, displayed what he called “the edible comet,” which produced an ice cream-like food using crushed cookies, chocolate syrup, sugar and half-and-half to represent the materials found in a comet. He chilled the mixture with liquid nitrogen to simulate the ultra-cold environment of space. Visitors enjoyed seeing the vapor from the evaporating nitrogen, and got a sweet treat as well.
Millheim Boy Scout Troop 88, led by Lynn McCool, made “elephant toothpaste” by mixing several household chemicals in a water bottle. The mixture produced a rapidly expanding white foam that billowed out of the bottle, resembling toothpaste coming out of its tube. Kids and adults alike were impressed by the display.
A representative of the Penn State Materials Advantage Club demonstrated the properties of a material called metallic glass, which is actually a metal with a glass-like atomic structure. It is made by the extremely rapid cooling of molten metal, which does not allow time for the orderly crystalline structure of normal metals to form. The club’s demonstration showed how a steel ball dropped on a normal metal disk bounces very little, but the more chaotic structure of metallic glass reflects much more of the ball’s energy back, causing very high and long bounces. One of the material’s main uses is in the face of golf clubs.
Dan Klock and Reba Paul, of Green Space in Tyrone, showed edible young sunflower plants, much like bean sprouts. “They contain many nutrients,” said Paul. When fully matured, the sunflower seeds are also edible and very nutritious. Green Space offers sunflower growing kits for gardeners.
Also showing plants were eighth-grade students from the Penns Valley Intermediate School, led by teacher Kristen Albright. Their display featured a hydroponic garden of plants growing in water without soil. Nutrients are fed to the plants through the water. Albright’s group also showed a group of remote controlled robots being driven on the gymnasium floor, as well as tiny autonomous robots that followed dark marker lines on white paper.