Skip to main content

Hands-on science: chemicals required

Cover of a 1950s-era chemistry set, as featured in an EDN blog by Paul Rako.
Do you know a child who is the proud possessor of a science kit? As much as you may love the idea of kids playing with science, maybe you shouldn’t feel too excited for them. As Paul Rako noted in a recent  EDN blog (“When kids really had fun with science”), today’s kits are not what they used to be. For example, one of the illustrations in his blog shows a newer chemistry kit proclaiming that it contains “no chemicals”!

Actually, after reading in Paul’s blog and his reader’s comments about what one could do with 1950s-era kits, it’s clear that while today’s kits have less potential for pyrotechnics and high-voltage excitement, that might be a good thing in some ways.

But it also brings to mind some comments made last summer by Marc Nantel, Associate Vice President of Niagara Research at Niagara College Canada, a Senior Member of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and Chair of the Society's Education Committee. Marc is dedicated to advancing photonics R&D, and also very dedicated to advancing photonics education and STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in general.

He is one of many educators who have become concerned about studies suggesting that the next generation is developing with inadequate skills in science and mathematics.

Marc noted that the fact that it is harder for young people to get a hands-on understanding of electronics these days doesn’t help. For example, he said, think of the old-style television or radio set. When it wasn’t working, you could take the back off and check the tubes or the wiring, and often figure out what needed fixing -- and then fix it, learning something about electronics in the process. You can’t do that with your new high-definition TV or your smartphone, not without already having the right diagnostic equipment and proper training.

So the chemistry kit may not come with chemicals, and a curious youngster can’t learn about electronics these days by taking them apart. Nonetheless, Paul Rako’s readers’ comments offered some interesting ideas about how to learn about science, with varying levels of hazard and ingenuity.

How did you explore science as a child? What sort of homegrown opportunities do today’s kids to have fun with science these days?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

#FacesofPhotonics: Rising Researcher Alina Zare

SPIE's #FacesofPhotonics is sharing the story of Alina Zare, Associate Professor at the The Machine Learning and Sensing Lab at the University of Florida. Dr. Zare was recognized as a 2018 Rising Researcher for her work in Electronic Imaging & Signal Processing, at the SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing conference.

This program recognizes early career professionals who conduct outstanding research in the defense, commercial, and scientific sensing, imaging, optics, or related fields. If you want to learn more about the program, the details are here.

Enjoy the interview with Alina!

1. Tell us about when you first became interested in optics and photonics. In my senior year of  undergraduate studies in computer science, I was taking an Image Processing elective.  I really enjoyed the course, and the professor for the class, Dr. Gerhard Ritter, encouraged me to do some undergraduate research.  
So I joined Dr. Paul Gader's research lab as a undergraduate researcher where I he…

Lighting Their Way

It's a feast for the science-curious senses: in June, two cohorts of two dozen middle-school girls came together for the free, STEM-focused, four-day-long Physics Wonder Girls Camp sessions organized by Dr. Roberto Ramos, associate professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

The girls studied the properties of light, built telescopes, designed and engineered submersible robots, and learned about scientific professions directly from the experts: nanoscientist and Chair of Bryn Mawr College's Physics Department Dr. Xuemei Cheng; INTEL software engineer Dr. Marisa Bauza-Roman; and several female food scientists from Puratos, a global company working with bakers and chocolatiers to assess the best ways to improve their products, all came and talked about their professions, answering questions and interacting with the campers. Plus, they got to be on TV!

The camp was initially inspired by Dr. Ramos' daughter Kristiana who expressed interest in the s…

#FacesofPhotonics: University of Arizona Cancer Researcher Kelli Kiekens

SPIE’s #FacesofPhotonics is a showcase across social media that connects SPIE members in the optics and photonics community around the world.

It serves to highlight similarities, celebrate differences, and foster a space for conversation and community to thrive.

This week on #FacesofPhotonics we are sharing the story of Kelli Kiekens, researcher at the University of Arizona in Dr. Barton's lab. From searching for a way to detect cancer earlier, to ballroom dancing, Kelli is a woman of many talents.

We hope you enjoy her interview.

1. Tell us about when you first became interested in optics and photonics. During my undergraduate education, my senior design class concentrated on various topics within optics. The group project for that semester was a study of holography where we created different types of holograms using a few different methods. 


We could then compare the quality of the holograms and see which were better. The part of this project that caught my attention is when we …