Life & Everything

Open House and Volcanoes

October 26, 2013 | No comments


Every other year, the school my department belongs to have a two day open house event where kids from all over the state visits the university to learn about how awesome science is.

This year, I was part of the explosive volcanism demonstration. We used a large trash can with water, colourful plastic balls, empty soda bottles, and liquid nitrogen, to simulate an explosive eruption and teach kids about the role of gas in these events.

Volcano demo

The demonstration was a big success. We didn’t have any failed explosions, and each one made the balls fly high up in the air (something that never fails to impress the audience). We even managed to propel some of the balls on to the roof of the adjacent building, and one ball got stuck in a tree.

It was so much fun, but oh so much work. We did over 35 runs over two days for about 5000 visitors, and answering numerous questions about everything related to volcanoes (and not related to volcanoes).

Even though it is a lot of work, it is very rewarding to interact with kids of all ages. They often surprise you with how much they know. And their reasoning can be quite entertaining. One of the highlights was one kid, who when asked if he knew what a volcano was, answered “it is something that goes boom, kind of like when my dad goes to the toilet”.

We didn’t repeat that answer over the speaker system.

There were of course other exhibits and demonstrations. Between the four departments participating, we covered a wide range of subject within earth science. Some of the exhibits from our department dealt with looking at lunar rocks and meteorites, examining small objects with the electron microprobe, learning about mapping the seafloor with sonar, making rock magnets, and using infrared cameras to see the heat distribution within a lava flow.

The only thing I don’t like about open house is that you are always so busy with your own exhibit that you don’t have time to go and look at all the other ones.

Once the open house was over, we celebrated by experimenting (playing) with the left-over liquid nitrogen. It’s pretty cool…