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Super Science Day event encourages curiosity in local kids

Elise Stevens, 9, mixes purple slime under the direction of Ian Foerster, a UND chemical engineering master's student, during Super Science Day held Sunday at Purpur Arena in Grand Forks. The slime was concocted from glue, water and laundry detergent. 1 / 2
Morgan Tebelius, 9, accompanied by Micaela Knudson, 15, and Bailey Tebelius, 6, squeezed the remaining liquid out of slime they created from glue, water and laundry detergent at the Dakota Science Center's Super Science Day held Sunday at Purpur Arena in Grand Forks. 2 / 2

The 9-year-old couldn’t help but smile when she lifted a spoon from a paper cup and watched as a glob of purple slime clung to it.

With the help of Ian Foerster, a master’s student in UND’s chemical engineering program, Elise had mixed watered down white glue, powdered laundry detergent and a bit of food coloring to create the small purple blob.

“When they’re in the cup, the glue and water molecules are just doing their own thing,” Foerster told the miniature chemists stopping at his station. “When you add the laundry detergent, they all hold hands.”

Elise was one of hundreds of kids who got to take home their own slime and more during the Dakota Science Center’s Super Science Day, held Sunday afternoon in Purpur Arena.

Inspiring interest

 The event brought area children together with UND students and a number of community groups including the Boy and Girl Scouts, city departments, clubs and nonprofits.

It was all part of the Dakota Science Center’s goal to inspire their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to the center’s executive director Laura Munksi.

Many careers of the future are going to be science, technology, engineering and mathematics — often abbreviated as STEM — careers, she said.

Munski expected about 1,200 to 1,500 kids were expected to wander through the event and its dozens of exhibits.

Each child received a bag to bring home their scientific creations such as paper airplanes, slime, polymer worms and fake snow.

Chemistry graduate students Klara Ondrusova and Jana Rovsova were in charge of the helping create latter two items.

Kids created the worms by dropping a liquid plastic made from algae into a solution of calcium chloride. The ensuing reaction caused the algae polymer to solidify and take a consistency of a wet noodle.

“I like seeing their faces when they first see the worm,” Ondrusova said. 

Children created fake snow by adding water to another polymer, which expands and takes a form familiar to those living in North Dakota. The graduate students told the young scientists the same material is used in diapers to make them absorbent. 

Other exhibits

Besides worms, fake snow, and slime, the curious also could watch marshmallows expand and contract in a small vacuum chamber.

Kids could draw on the marshmallows and watch and their treat’s designs grow and shrink as pressure in the chamber was added or subtracted.

“The marshmallows get huge and then it shrinks back down,” Elise said, holding her own that she got to decorate and put in the device.

While some exhibits featured hand-on experiments, others like Eric Allmaras included a show.

Allmaras demonstrated the difference in densities in certain types of gases, inviting children to hold balloons filled with air and sulfur hexafluoride. The balloon filled with sulfur hexafluoride felt heavier and has a curious effect on the human voice when inhaled.

“Luke, I am your father,” Allmaras said in a voice almost too low to hear after inhaling some of the gas. After each inhalation, he had to bend over and breathe out in order to allow the heavy gas to escape from his lungs.

Other sights included volcanoes, wildlife pelts and bones, car engines and water runoff system displays. 

Video: Click here for video from the event