Happy Friday y’all! In all my abundant free time (which obviously exists) I’ve started volunteering with the Pasadena Unified School District. I’ve been working assisting their after-school program LEARNS, specifically helping with the Chemistry Olympiad and also running experiments for the kids to keep them engaged in science.
One of the thigs I love about Caltech is all the opportunities for volunteer and community work. The Caltech Y ensures there are great opportunities for all types of service work from what I do with LEARNS to work in LA homeless shelters, and more. It’s a great organization and honestly doesn’t get enough love most of the time.
This week the experiment we ran was the “whoosh bottle”. I know that sounds mysterious, but what you need is ethanol, and one of the 5-gallon water bottles that they sell at Home Depot or your local grocery store. (ALSO DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!!!!!). Luckily, both of those ingredients are fairly easy to obtain, although we really confused the lady at the Home Depot by specifically requesting empty water bottles. So, once you have the ethanol and the empty (and dry – this is very important to maximize the “whoosh”) you pour a small amount of ethanol in the bottle, swish it around, and then light it on fire. To properly practice safety with this experiment, we attached a long reach match to a dowel rod. It looked bad but keeps your hands out of the range of the flame. Usually you use a normal match and just drop it in, however we couldn’t find normal sized matches at home depot and figured this would be a suitable substitute.
I learned how to do this experiment as a part of chem club, a club that does chemistry outreach similar to what we do with LEARNS, however a lot more infrequently and for shorter periods of time. We have a few other great experiments planned for LEARNS, including the ever-classic gummy bear in potassium perchlorate (maybe even the GIANT gummy bear in potassium perchlorate), an osmosis egg, and all sorts of other wonderful science things. In-terms of projects for chem Olympiad, we’ve made slime and built some bridges out of notecards. All of their activities are pretty fun and low stress and so they do a great job of keeping the kids involved.
Don’t “bottle” your emotions”