"Cool sciency stuff" abounds at 25th annual Celebration of Chemistry at Eastman

Rick Wagner • Updated Oct 29, 2015 at 9:12 AM

KINGSPORT — Fourth grader Chloe Greene of Shoemaker Elementary School in Scott County liked all  the “cool sciency stuff,” while J.D. Woolsey of Tusculum View Elementary in Greeneville liked seeing what liquid nitrogen at negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit did to different objects.

Eastman Chemical Company this week marked the 25th annual Celebration of Chemistry for 4th Graders at the Employee Center, when about 1,400 students like Chloe and J.D. got a glimpse and hands-on experience with the science of chemistry and have a little fun to boot. It was sponsored by the Northeast Tennessee Section of the American Chemical Society, which has more than 300 chemists and engineers from 11 counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The event was hosted by Eastman. Other sponsors include Eastman Technology, AirGas, Agilent Technologies, Jacobs Engineering, Swagelok, VWR International and Wilmade-Lab Glass.  

Chloe said she liked the fluorescence demonstration that used a black light, particularly because the black light made stars on the bottom of her purse light up.

“I liked the liquid nitrogen,” 9-year-old J.D. said at the event Tuesday, also responding “maybe” when asked if he would pursue a career in chemistry or science.

Jenna Baines, another 9-year-old Tusculum View fourth grader, got an up close and personal demonstration of static electricity that make her blonde hair stand on end.

“It’s just cool because you can do experiments and learn cool things about science,” said Jenna, who got to see her hair stand on end in a mirror held by volunteer demonstrator Mike Paulonis, manager of Eastman’s data science group.

Also in the electricity demonstration, four of Jenna’s classmates  — Kiley Wagner, Brody Inscore, Brady Hammer and Damon Wilhelm — formed a human light bulb chain of sorts when volunteer demonstrator Chris Jones, an Eastman lab technician, had the students stand in a line holding florescent light bulbs that lit up when he touched a Wilhelm, at the right end of the line, with a Tesla coil.

 The demonstration stations included properties of matter, where chemist and Eastman procurement manager Julie Byers volunteered Tuesday morning, and oscillating reactions where Eastman employee Brian Bennett volunteered Tuesday morning. Other stations among 23 plus a mid-day magic show by David Vaught Tuesday and former University of Tennessee chemistry professor Al Hazarid Wednesday, included polymers and microsopy.

Another station focused on bases and acids, where Dawn Mason and Jeff Owens took turns showing students common household substances and did tests showing if they were acids or bases.

“What we like to show them is using almost all household chemicals,” said Owens, who has worked for Eastman 25 years and has been doing the Chemistry Week event for 20 years. “We’ve got kids here now who are actually working at Eastman who came through here (in the fourth grade).” Mason said the students like a neutralization reaction because it fizzes.

“It’s a lot of fun. They have a good time,” Mason said of hands-on learning, which in recent years has been a key component of STEM or science, technology, engineering and math..

Mason, an Eastman research chemist turned technical manager, and Owens also said they tell students about dangers of mixing even common household substances. For instance, when ammonia and household bleach are mixed, she said it forms cloramine, a toxic gas that can kill people in high enough concentrations.

Renee Niziursju-Mann, who has worked at Eastman and volunteered for the Chemistry Week celebration for 24 years escorting folks, said that Sullivan South and Dobyns-Bennett High School chemistry students this year worked at a density demonstration.

“I’ve always been part of the escort team,” said Nizursju-Mann, a chemist-turned project manager for Six Sigma at Eastman.

Twenty South students Tuesday and 24 D-B students Wednesday helped escort students and do the density demonstration. Tuesday morning, the density demonstrators were South senior Bailee Cavin and junior Grant Phebus. They are students in the Honors Chemistry II class taught by Gerri St. Clair, who said she has been sending South students to the event for about two decades.

Tuesday schools sending students were Providence Academy of Johnson City, Tusculum View, Shoemaker, Kingsport’s Kennedy Elementary, Fairmount Elementary of Bristol, Tenn., St. Anne Catholic School of Bristol, Va., Lincoln Elementary of Kingsport, Gray Elementary in Washington County, Tenn., Hawkins County’s Carter’s Valley Elementary, West View and Towne Acres elementary schools in Johnson City.

Wednesday schools were Carter County’s Central Elementary, Kingsport’s Washington Elementary, Chilhowie (Va.) Elementary of Smyth County, Sullivan County’s Central Heights, Haynesfield Elementary of Bristol, Tenn., St. Dominic Catholic School in Kingsport, Roosevelt Elementary of Kingsport, Doak Elementary of Tusculum, Tenn., Ashley Academy in Johnson City, the Christian Life Academy in Kingsport, St. Clair Elementary from Hawkins County, Dungannon (Va.) Intermediate and Sullivan Academy in Bristol, Va.

The American Chemical Society has sponsored National Chemistry Week for 28 years.


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