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Harnessing the power of ... elephant toothpaste?!

Do you know what elephant toothpaste is? Could you build your own lava lamp? Would you be able to mix up a batch of Silly Putty?

A group of 120 eighth-graders can now answer "yes" to all three questions, thanks to an outreach program that Lehigh chemical and biomolecular engineering students recently conducted at Broughal Middle School.

The daylong program, designed to expose the teenagers to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM),was organized by Lehigh’s student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

The goal of the two-year-old outreach program, said AIChE faculty adviser and Lehigh assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Mark Snyder, is to demonstrate chemical engineering principles to middle schoolers and tell them about STEM-based careers they might not know of.

Thus, the Lehigh students showed the Broughal students how to make elephant toothpaste, build a lava lamp, make Silly Putty and crush an empty soda can with heat.

Elephant toothpaste can be made at home by mixing hydrogen peroxide, yeast, warm water, dishwashing liquid, and, for effect, food coloring. The combination triggers a chemical reaction that results in an erupting pillar of foam.

Mathew Boyer ’14, the 2013-14 vice president of the Lehigh AIChE chapter, and Miguel Roman ’14, the 2013-14 chapter president, played lead roles in this year’s program.

Boyer, a chemical and biomolecular engineering major, and winner of the 2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium, describes himself as an "organizer, coordinator and leader. I planned what experiments to show the kids and what concepts to teach them."

Read the full story in the Lehigh University News Center.

-By Jennifer Marangos

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