Spring Carnival Catalyzes Science with pHun

It was a fun-filled afternoon of cotton candy, syringe-darts, oobleck, and camaraderie as students of all majors flocked to the School of Science’s first annual Spring Carnival held on Wednesday, April 14, 2010. The fountain area was abuzz with excitement, punctuated by the occasional bottle rocket launch, as hundreds joined in the celebration of beautiful weather and the approaching end of the semester.

“The turnout is absolutely beyond our expectations,” exclaimed Patricia Van Hise, assistant dean of the School of Science, as she adeptly rolled paper cones for a cotton candy line of hungry students snaking around the fountain. “It’s wonderful!”

Attendees roamed activity tables sponsored by School of Science student clubs and organizations while munching on free popcorn and dodging the Astronomy Club’s occasional falling bottle rocket.

“Students are learning that science isn’t all about being a geek, it’s lots of fun,” explained Sakina Attaar, a sophomore biology major representing Pre-SOMA (Student Osteopathic Medical Association). Judging by the three students entangled on the “Medical Twister” mat, it would certainly seem so. “Everybody knows anatomical Twister is what all the cool science majors do in their free time,” she added with a laugh.carnival2

At the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) table, participants put their skills to the test with “Medical Pong.” Trivia questions varied in difficulty levels to accommodate non-science majors, ranging from naming the pH of the stomach to what the acronym AMSA stands for, the answer to which was conveniently printed on the poster behind the table. Winners received candy and by the middle of the carnival, AMSA representatives were almost out of supplies. “We bought sixty candy bars and we’re nearing the end of them,” said one student.

Meanwhile, physics majors were hard at work shooting their least favorite physicists at the “Launch Game.” Marie Curie, Pierre Curie, Einstein, Henri Becquerel, Max Planck, and Wilhelm Rontgen were all represented on bulls-eye targets at which participants aimed the projectile launcher. “Planck seems to be the daily favorite,” noted Cindy Lin, president of Physics Club. She explained the activity is a General Physics experiment that the club decided to spice up by adding physicist as targets.carnival3

Yet perhaps the most unusual event was the “Walk on Water” experiment sponsored by the Student Chemist Association (SCA) and Gamma Sigma Epsilon. A poster beckoned wary bystanders to “run on liquid” but warned not to take too long or else the substance would shift to its liquid state. Oobleck, named after Dr. Seuss’s gooey green substance, is a mixture of corn starch and water. “It’s a non-newtonian fluid, which means it acts like a liquid when being poured, but like a solid when a force is acting on it,” explained Sarah Wehrhan, president of SCA. Indeed, a pair of running feet works exceedingly well as an applied force. “It’s been a really exciting day with great weather,” she said. “We are all pleasantly surprised by the turnout.”

So what are these chemists going to do with all that oobleck at the end of the day? “Toss it in the lake,” Wehrhman joked. “No, we really aren’t sure what we’re doing with it yet.”

At the end of the carnival, lucky students chose from an array of prizes: beaker mugs, $10 bookstore gift cards, safety goggles, laboratory coats, and club t-shirts.  “All in all, the day was a great success,” said Van Hise.  She and Jeffrey Osborn, dean of the School of Science, note that the excitement generated is a definite indicator that the event will be held again next year.  To view more carnival photos click here.  For full list of games and activities click here.

To access the article on TCNJ’s School of Science website, click here.


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