Focus on Chemistry: EnLIGHTening VAMPY Students with Chemistry

by Trevor Webster

Trevor Webster smiles
Trevor Webster

Humans have always had an instinct to try to decipher what we notice going on around us. This sense of wonder has led to many scientific breakthroughs while also leading to even more questions. In Chemistry, we plan to explore some of these mysteries of the universe and develop a better understanding of how the world works. 

One of our goals for this class is to have the students each day complete a new lab and to make a scientific breakthrough that is new to them. Over the first five days of camp, our class has explored many different phenomena and even tested some of them in the recently built labs of Ogden Hall. These experiments consisted of burning different materials to preview the specific light their electrons emit, dissolving and reforming copper to imitate a technique used by scientists during World War II to hide gold from the Nazis, and viewing the specific fingerprints of different noble gases.

We have also covered several other topics. We explored nuclear chemistry and how elements and atoms are formed. We looked at periodic trends and where ions get their charge. On Friday, we are looking at different kinds of bonding while learning the specificities of chemical nomenclature. 

From day one, our students have shown that they can take a challenge and run with it while also cooperating well with others in the classroom. They take on each question and topic with pride and have gone above and beyond to do their best in the class. Soon enough, these students will be able to call themselves chemistry experts and maybe, one day, discover some brand-new phenomena and change the world for the better. 

Student are burning different salts to see what colors they produce. (
Student are burning different salts to see what colors they produce. (From left to right: Nick Rutledge, Zachary Vandermolden, Malachi Ibn-Mohammed, Debbie Brock, Dallas Jennings, and Sofia Sileo.)
Students drawing the emission spectrums of 4 different noble gases after looking at emission tubes using diffraction grating lenses.
Students drawing the emission spectrums of 4 different noble gases after looking at emission tubes using diffraction grating lenses. (From left to right: Nick Rutledge, Ian Franks, Debbie Brock, Malachi Ibn-Mohammed, Zachary Vandermolden, Jackson Little, Laurence Popham, Sophia Sileo.)

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