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19th Annual Student Chemistry Adventure brings chemistry to life for area high school students

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19th Annual Student Chemistry Adventure brings chemistry to life for area high school students

By Lori Dugan

Thatcher, AZ—Eastern Arizona College’s Chemistry Department hosted its 19th Annual Student Chemistry Adventure on March 29, 2011. EAC chemistry faculty Dr. Phil McBride, Joel Shelton, and Dr. Michael Neary welcomed approximately 70 high school students from Duncan, Morenci, Pima, Safford, Superior, Thatcher, and Willcox. The students began the adventure in the College’s Gherald L. Hoopes Jr. Activities Center where EAC admissions counselor Erik Lehmann took a few minutes to showcase the College and describe the academic and extracurricular possibilities available to these students by attending EAC.

On their way to the Math/Science building, the students stopped at the sand volleyball pit to watch the Organic Chemistry students perform a fiery thermite reaction in which molten iron was produced from iron(III) oxide and aluminum powder. This reaction has been used to weld railroad ties together.

The competition began with a laboratory experiment to determine the identity of an unknown metal. The students determined the mass and volume of the unknown metal to determine its density. They also did an experiment to determine its specific gravity. Students compared their results to literature values to determine the identity of the unknown metal. Teams were graded on laboratory technique, calculations, graphs, safety, and accuracy.

The day continued with a team competition where students had 60 minutes to complete seven activities involving chromatography, the synthesis of Isopentyl (Amyl) Acetate Ester (Banana Oil), the combustion of magnesium, and applying gas laws to shrink and expand a marshmallow. The third event involved teams answering questions covering a variety of chemistry concepts.

While results were being tabulated, EAC’s Organic Chemistry students, led by Shelton, dazzled the high school students with an array of colorful, loud, bright, and exciting chemical exhibitions.

McBride presented medals to all of the participants and expressed thanks to the high school chemistry teachers for their efforts in providing quality instruction to their students. The Safford High School team of Stevie Green, Destinee Ogas, Weston Richardson, and Nichole Baker received second place medals and a team plaque. They are coached by Duane DeSpain. First place medals and team plaque went to the Morenci High School team of Tyler Anderson, Agale Broda, Chris Montano, and Moises Espinoza. Morenci is coached by Steve Ahmann.

A special thank you goes to high school teachers Steve Ahmann (Morenci), Duane DeSpain (Safford), Lane Walburger (Pima), Becky Bell (Duncan), Jeanne Evenson (Superior), and Dave Parnell (Willcox) for their expertise as instructors and ability to provide quality education for their students.