By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News
DANVILLE — What do a fog machine, cups, an inflatable globe and toilet tissue have in common?
They are all instruments of Mad Science as William Petterson, Mad Science of Lehigh Valley director, demonstrated Wednesday for students of St. Joseph School in Danville.
The children helped him with experiments showing properties of water, air and molecules.
The presentation, of about 10 demonstrations, was funded by a Merck Cherokee Pharmaceuticals grant which also funded science programs last fall at the school.
This was the first time Petterson presented a program at the school.
“We are the world’s leading science provider of after-school and summer camps,” he said.
The day was also Mismatch Day — a time for students to dress in mismatched clothes, shoes and accessories — which was part of this week’s celebration of Catholic Schools Week.
“Science can help you be better at what you do in life no matter what you want to do in life,” Petterson told the crowd. He said he has a scientist friend who helps a kicker for the Dallas Cowboys do his job better.
Petterson demonstrated a shell game, with water in a cup, with the help of third-grader David Killen.
David guessed the cup without the liquid. Petterson revealed he used a substance that absorbs liquids. “You have probably used it,” he said of sodium polyacrylate, found in disposable diapers. The substance changed the water to a solid.
For air experiments, he used a lighter to light air in tubes that shot to the ceiling.
He fashioned a vortex with a garbage can with a hole in the bottom and a rubber sheet over the top “that turns it into a tornado generator.” With a fog machine, he was able to volley fog from the vortex to knock a cup from the head of eighth-grader Luke Bertonzetti.
Claire Boelle, a fourth-grader, and Petterson blew through straws to make ping pong balls float. He then used an electric leaf blower to make an inflatable glove rise.
Fifth-grader Gabby Capita and fourth-grader David Friedenberg tried to pull apart large suction cups held together by air.
They then held a roll of toilet tissue on a pole with Petterson using the leaf blower that fanned the paper throughout the audience.
Anastasia Ferdock, a fourth-grader, added solutions to a bucket with three of the solutions yellow and one solution blue. After Petterson asked her to stir it with her hand, she picked up the slimy goo resulting from the chemical change.
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