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MCCC Chemistry Week Visits Are Magic Time for All


West Windsor, N.J. - It was “slime time” once again as Mercer County Community College’s science students led the way to local elementary schools during National Chemistry Week from Oct. 22 to 26.

Coordinated by MCCC Chemistry Professor Helen Tanzini, the annual program, which is sponsored by the Trenton section of the American Chemical Society, introduces youngsters to the wonders of chemistry through demonstration and hands-on experiments. Each classroom visit is capped off with the making of “slime,” a concoction of PVA, borax and glitter that mimics the function of mucus found naturally in the body.

Nineteen MCCC students performed demonstrations for over 600 children over the course of the week. The schools included Village Charter School in Ewing, Grace N. Rogers School in Hightstown, John Witherspoon School in Princeton, the Roosevelt School in Roosevelt, and Dutch Neck Elementary School in West Windsor.

The Chemistry Week team that visited the Dutch Neck School included, from left, Profesor Helen Tanzini, students Rebekah Dietrich, Adrie Kornasiewicz, alum Rocky Grevasi, Sarah Patterson and Patrick Lutz. Not pictured: Jing Huang and Kevin Wu.

According to Professor Tanzini, the theme of this year’s event was Nanochemistry. In addition to the example of the cross-linked polymer that produces “slime,” the experiments touched on numerous aspects of material science such as gigantic spheres that absorb water; metals with shape memory; a demonstration of superabsorbent polymers that act like sponges and produce a powder resembling snow; and a demonstration of sand-repelling water, which acts as a hydrophobic  (water-fearing) substance.

Says Tanzini, “The youngsters never fail to be amazed by what we are able to produce with a few basic materials.  We hear over and over how excited the kids are by our visit and we hope that excitement translates into a love for science.”  

Perhaps the follow-up thank you letters the group received say it best. Wrote one youngster, “National Chemistry Week on Friday, October 26th was the best day of my life!”, while another child said, “I  had so much fun and think I want to be a chemist when I grow up."

Tanzini notes that MCCC students are enthusiastic about their experience as well.  “It’s great for them to be up in front of a class and explain chemistry concepts in terms that children can understand. Many of our Chemistry Week team members come back year after year to participate in this program.”

In addition to Professor Tanzini, MCCC faculty members who served as team leaders included Lisa Dunn, Ralph Popp, Diane Hilker, Ellen Genovesi, Carlo Alfare and Jing Huang.  Also participating were returning alumni Rocky Gervasi, now a physical therapist, and Kate Kingsley, who graduated in May and has continued her studies in biology at Rutgers. The Mercer group was joined by Princeton University graduate students Patrick Lutz and Kevin Wu. Rider Professor Bruce Burnham guided Rider students as they prepared the slime reagents and also took part in the school visits..

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