Community shows off spooky science at Halloween Chemistry Show

Emily Barlow, Contributing Writer

The fourth annual Halloween Chemistry Show was held at the McDonnell Amphitheater on Oct. 16. The event was sponsored by the American Chemical Society Student Affiliate Group at the University.

Families from Lewisburg and the surrounding area came out to enjoy various Halloween-themed chemistry experiments. The Lewisburg Children’s Museum was a partner for the event and offered different activities before the show began, such as slime-making, non-Newtonian fluids, and “Dress like a scientist.”

For one experiment, six students poured hydrogen peroxide into six smiling jack-o-lanterns. The hydrogen peroxide reacted to colored soapy water, and caused the pumpkins to look like they were spitting out different colors.

In another experiment, Bucky the Bison swung a baseball bat at a carved pumpkin sitting on a trash can. The pumpkin hardly budged after being struck. The pumpkin was replaced by a pumpkin that had been frozen in liquid nitrogen. When Bucky hit the frozen pumpkin, it shattered due to being brittle and having reduced elasticity.

The crowd got involved during the show for the Pumpkin-Decorating Contest. Chemistry Lab Director Pat Martino called out the numbers of six tickets. The audience member with the corresponding number on their ticket came down to the demonstration area to compete. The audience members were split into two teams. One team was led by Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith, and the other team was led by Assistant Professor of Chemistry Douglas Collins. Professor Collins’ team won; their pumpkin was decorated as a “stylish smoothie drinker.”

The chemistry students demonstrated the thermite reaction by igniting metal powder inside of a pumpkin. Once the pumpkin was lit, it produced a bright, white, sputtering flame.

The finale featured large drums filled with liquid nitrogen. Two students dressed in white coveralls threw colored soapy water into the drums which caused a blue and orange soap explosion.

“I think it’s wonderful that both the Bucknell community and the surrounding communities can be attracted to a fun, safe, family-oriented show like this that our students put on,” University President John Bravman said. “It’s a wonderful demonstration of Bucknell serving our community and giving back.”

Reed Byrum, Business Consultant for the University’s Small Business Development Center, and his grandson James have attended the last three Halloween Chemistry shows. “It gets better every year, it’s really phenomenal,” Byrum said. “What a great contribution for the community.”

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