Sherman Jen Laboratory - Open House

September 20, 2018
Jillian Westby

On Saturday September 8th, an exciting event occurred on campus in the new Sherman Jen building.  In the laboratory, we were thrilled to open the doors of our brand new facilities to the general public. During the open house, members of the public were able to explore the new building; including all of its sustainable features (see our previous blog post for details on the unique sustainable features of the building).

Inside the lab, families and kids were able to walk around, checking out the state-of-the-art facilities. Kids were able to try on real lab coats, safety goggles, and gloves, while learning about the proper way to stay protected during experiments. Rather than simply having people wander through the lab, we set up two hands-on activities to get people involved and excited about science.

The hydrophobic sand activity gave kids the opportunity to mix sand and water together in beakers, and see what happens. The hydrophobic sand – also known as “magic sand” - isn't typical sand one would find at the beach. When added to a beaker of water, it forms interesting globular shapes, and when scooped out with a spoon, it is instantly and completely dry to the touch! The individual sand particles are specially coated to make them hydrophobic, so water is instantly repelled from the surface.

The elephant toothpaste experiment was also a big hit. This experiment involves adding a small amount of potassium iodide to a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, to form pure oxygen. As the reaction unfolds, a large amount of foam forms rapidly and appears to be “squeezed” out of the top of the flask, as if an elephant is trying to get the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube. To make the experiment more interesting, food colouring is added, which results in some surprisingly beautiful gradients of colour. Dish soap is also added to help form the foam that rises out of the top of the flask and spills over.

Both lab activities were a great success, providing kids with a unique opportunity to experience a real university science lab, and to do some hands-on learning outside of the typical classroom environment. For us, it was exciting to host the first activities or 'experiments' in the new lab, and what better way to do that than inspiring young scientists!