Middle School Students Present Science at Sensing Our World Program 2009

Author: Marissa Gebhard

Sensing Our World 2009

Middle school students at Sensing our World Go GreeND, a longstanding summer program at Notre Dame with an environmental emphasis this year, learned about ecologically sound approaches to urban space, the physics of energy, how chemists are developing biodegradable alternatives to various consumer goods, environmental philosophy and ecological adaptation. Teams of students demonstrated their projects in the Jordan Hall Galleria at the end of the camp in July.

At one table, seventh grader Julia Lohraff offered passers-by a “snow cone” made by adding water to polysodium acrylate obtained from baby diapers. She tinted the gelatinous result with a felt-tip marker, then added salt to show that the substance easily becomes an environmentally-friendly liquid.

Other exhibits included Levitating Trains, where a superconductor cooled with liquid nitrogen moved along a track of parallel magnets, and a greenhouse-effect demonstration, where thermometers in identical clear closed containers heated by lamps showed higher temperatures in the one where dry ice had been added.

At a display on malaria, a microscope showed visitors malaria parasites and white blood cells. Motors and Generators showed how electromagnetic energy increases when magnets are added. At Electrolysis with Solar Cells, light from a lamp generated electricity that divided water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, potentially providing power for hydrogen fuel cell cars. A model watershed showed how waste can slip into the river and flow into the ocean. “It becomes a global problem,” ninth grader Victor Lu said.

Baugo Community Schools physical science teacher Kevin Johnston was the lead instructor at the camp, whose teachers included faculty, staff, and graduate students from Physics, Chemistry, Biological Sciences and other departments at the University of Notre Dame. The Joint Institute for Astrophysics (JINA), the Department of Physics, the Nuclear Structure Laboratory, individual faculty members and various research centers sponsored the camp.