Things were tense on the starship USS Energize.
The crew had just recovered its small droid, a rubber ball named C4PO, from the freezing surface of Uranus. Captain James T. Clark ordered his first officer, Mr. Spork, to drop C4PO to see if the planet’s cold temperature had made it brittle and breakable.
Mr. Spork threw C4PO toward the ground. At first, it just bounced slowly to the floor. He threw it again, and the droid shattered, eliciting gasps from the crowd of school-aged children and their parents seated around the lecture hall.
In fact, the crew of the USS Energize didn't really work on a starship; it was a group of chemistry students. The “droid” was a ball dipped in liquid nitrogen to demonstrate the effects of extreme cold during IU’s fifth annual Science Fest.
Science Fest is a free event organized by the College of Arts and Sciences designed for children and teenagers who are interested in science. During this year’s Oct. 27 event, there were more than 150 events across campus.
The magic show is a popular event. This year, faculty and undergraduate volunteers pretended to be crew members aboard a Star Trek-esque spaceship, traveling to each planet in the solar system to see if it could sustain life.
James Clark, community outreach coordinator for the chemistry department, led the magic show. He said the show came from the chemistry department’s National Chemistry Week celebration and became a mainstay of Science Fest.
“It just wouldn’t be a day in chemistry without a good magic show,” Clark said.
Twin sixth graders Sean and Nora Bornerman went to see the chemistry magic show with their dad.
“I really like seeing all the stuff that they do,” she said.
Sean said it was the third year the pair had gone to Science Fest.
“There’s some cool stuff, and you get free candy sometimes,” Sean said.
Both said they were interested in science careers when they grew up. Nora wants to be an epidemiologist, a type of doctor who studies diseases, and Sean wants to work in a space-related field.
Besides the magic show, the chemistry department organized candy demonstrations, where volunteers performed simple experiments to show off the chemical properties of candy.
Between Owen and Wylie halls, children could smash geodes open. In Franklin Hall, media scientists measured childrens’ heart rates and skin conductance using the electrode technology they typically use in experiments.
Student, staff and faculty volunteers from 20 different academic departments helped run the events.
Volunteer Michael Riddle, a senior, said the first time he visited IU was to come to Science Fest as a high school sophomore. He said his experience helped ignite his passion for science.
“It’s why I continue to stay involved,” Riddle said.