Blasting off to scientific learning

Jun. 20, 2014 @ 06:46 AM

Pop! Plunk! Plink!

Empty pill bottles rained down on the hot sidewalk. Gleefully, kids raced to pick up the bottles and begged for more water and Alka-Selzter so they could make the bottles pop again. After filling half of the orange bottle with water and crumbling up a white, chalky tab, the students placed their bottles with the caps down on the concrete.

Pop! Plunk! Plink!

The bottles soared into the air due to the explosive reaction with the pressure of the closed bottle and the sizzling Alka-Selzter tablet. The kids giggled in excitement.

But, later, even bigger explosions would make their mouths drop.

All the fun and excitement is part of a week-long camp that began Monday called Minds On at the Patterson Science Center. A Google grant bestowed to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center sponsors the camp. According to Science Education Specialist Addie Jo Schonewolf, the grant allows her to afford to come out to Caldwell County as part of Morehead’s outreach program to “go existing science programs and provide enrichment,” she said.

“It is a new thing that we have been trying,” Schonewolf said. “These are a super good group of kids. It’s been a great week.”

The students are provided with free breakfast and lunch every day. The kids have studied galaxies, stars, planets, asteroids, what makes a planet habitable and whether there could be life elsewhere. They have created a solar system out of Play-Doh and their own spectrometers. They also simulated a comet with the use of dry ice. Today, they will combine everything they’ve learned to build a rover and design their own space mission for their rover to complete.

Brennon Pope, 13, said, “It (the camp) is fun. It’s awesome because it’s interactive and more hands-on.”

After lunch on Thursday, the real fun began. The students toted their rockets made out of a 2-liter soda bottle, construction paper and cardboard to the basketball court outside of Chester Building. Taking turns, the campers placed their rockets, which were given names like Jupiter, The Fly By, The Invader and Green J, on pumps that pumped air into the bottles partially filled with water. Then, the students pulled a string 15 feet away and watched as their rockets took to the air, sometimes flying as high as 100 feet. Mouths open and eyes peering into the sky, the kids were fascinated by science.