In developing demonstrations for our “Is It Chemistry or Magic?” outreach program, we use a “Keep it Simple” approach. We don’t need elaborate equipment, tanks of gas, or special glassware. The contents of our show fit into 2 or 3 boxes which can be transported in the trunk of a car. No, we don’t even need grant support from the NSF to buy a van to carry our equipment!
This has been our philosophy since the inception of our program. The photo below was taken a “few” years ago in our younger days when our hair was darker. Our boxes are now more sophisticated, but the concept is the same.
In the twenty years of giving our outreach presentation, we offer these points that reflect on our strategy:
- We developed our demonstration program so that it could be set up and taken down quickly. It is not unusual to have limited access to a room if there are other activities scheduled. On this note, flexibility is important. We have given our presentations in classrooms, gymnasiums, and even motel meeting rooms.
- We use a minimum number of chemicals, solutions, and equipment. Many of our solutions are used for multiple demonstrations. We also select chemicals and solutions that are stable and safe so that they can be flushed down the drain as we clean up.
Developing simple demonstrations does not mean that our demonstrations are not eye-catching or exciting. As an example, watch the video below. It is one of our several demonstrations illustrating acid-base indicators. It simply uses household vinegar, ammonia, and goldenrod paper.