Tag Archives: mad about science

Mad About Science – The Science of Propane

Mad About Science™ salutes the propane scientists at AmeriGas, the nation’s largest supplier of propane tanks and cylinders. Greg Rice and Chris Selepec from AmeriGas demonstrated the science behind propane tanks and explained propane tank safety at their facility in Commerce City, Colorado.

Greg and Chris demonstrated that propane is both a gas and a liquid. It is a colorless and odorless gas. Like with natural gas, an identifying odor is added so it can be easily detected.

They showed how the liquid quickly boils off and turns into a gas and talked about the importance of checking for leaks on your propane cylinders at home. A recent house fire in Parker, Colorado was partially due to an improperly connected propane cylinder to a barbecue grill that was up next to the house.

For more information on how to check for a propane leak, what to do if you smell gas, how to transport, store and dispose of propane tanks, visit the experiment on AmeriGas and the Science of Propane page.

Don Cameron is Mad About Science

Steve Spangler visits Don Camerons classroom at Lakewood High School
Steve Spangler visits Don Cameron's classroom at Lakewood High School

The chemistry students at Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Colorado set their alarm clocks just a little earlier than normal today to join us on live TV for our Mad About Science tribute to Don Cameron. Mr. Cameron is described by his students as a ‘really great teacher who tells lots of jokes.’ While Mr. Cameron does lots of great demos, what impressed me most about him was how he was able to use these great science demos to build real-world connections to the science content.

As you watch the video, you’ll see how the students demonstrated an experiment with dry ice that shows how global warming makes the oceans more acidic. They also used a Tesla Coil to demonstrate what happens inside a car engine with explosive results. And there couldn’t be a better close to any science segment than to have a student smash a cinder block on a who is sandwiched between two beds of nails. Huge thanks to the students and staff at Lakewood High School for this early morning visit.

Tom Andrews is Mad About Science

Spangler Salutes Tom Andrews

Any teacher who can inspire a group of students to get up at 4:30 AM in order to be on live television is an amazing person. But it didn’t take long to see why his students like him so much… “He’s just a cool teacher who makes coming to class fun,” says one of his students as she launches a rubber bug across the room. Mad About Science is a television news series that we created at 9News KUSA-TV in Denver almost ten years ago as a way to recognize science teachers in Colorado who are getting their students excited about learning science. Tom Andrews hits the mark as an amazing science teacher at Goddard Middle School in Littleton, Colorado.

When you visit Mr. Andrews’ classroom, you can see that he practices what he preaches. “Science needs to be hands-on and engaging for the students to take an interest… and it doesn’t hurt if you’re a little funny too,” Tom told me as he put on a lab coat tattered with burn marks, giant stains and remnants of yesterday’s classroom adventure (okay, it was a big chunk of owl poop). The big take away for me was the respect his students had for him during all of their interactions. Yes, he’s a cool teacher, but Tom Andrews also expects a great deal out of his students. You can choose to teach the concepts of force and motion using a standard textbook or you can use that content to teach the kids how to shoot rubber bugs across the room. Tom chooses the road less traveled because he understand the importance of creating experiences.

Spangler Salutes Tom Andrews

During today’s Mad About Science segment on 9NEWS – KUSA TV in Denver, Mr. Andrews soaked one of his student’s lunch money in a flammable solution and then lit it on fire. The student yelled out, “Hey, that’s my lunch money!” When the flame vanished, the five dollar bill was perfectly safe. When Mr. Andrews said that it was “magic” his students corrected him by yelling out, “It’s science!”

“It’s really important to use each of the activities to help teach kids how to think like a scientist. It’s so important for students to use the scientific method,” according to Mr. Andrews who designs experiments using simple, household materials like old shirts, scrap paper, plastic spoons and a few rubber bugs.

Each of the experiments featured during the television segment are easy for the students (and viewers) to recreate at home. In the You’re All Fingers Experiment, two students wore one of Mr. Andrews’s favorite shirts – one tried to button up the shirt with the use of all their fingers (control) and the other student attempted to button the shirt without the use of their thumbs (variable).

Spangler Salutes Tom Andrews

Twirling Helicopter Blades were next up. Students dropped paper helicopters, one is the control and the others were changed in some way. Drop times were recorded and the students made simple changes to their design to alter the twirling performance of the helicopter.

Mr. Andrews wrapped up with his Bug Launch Experiment. The students stood behind specially designed spoon catapults, perfect for launching fake bugs. One rubber beetle served as the control and the other bugs played the role as the variable in the experiment. The measurement team recorded the distance each bug flew while the crowd cheered on the flying bugs… and I offered extra credit if the kids could hit our photographer.

Congratulations to Tom Andrews and his students for teaching us how to make science fun.

Hose Burst Test on Live TV – Spangler Visits Gates Labs

2-25-08-gatesrubber-madscience4.jpegAll this week on TV, I had the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at Denver-based companies who each have a cool science twist to their business. The scientists at Gates Corporation invited our cameras on a tour of the hydraulic testing labs at Gates where they demonstrated how engineers test high pressure rubber hoses for commercial use. During the segment, Joel Edwards, Vice President of Fluid Technology & Product Development and Larry Kachinski, Senior Lab Engineer pressurized a hose rated to 6,000 psi with a safety factor of 4:1. The loud burst produced a perfect rupture at nearly 28,000 psi! 

Watch the Video 

Anything that goes bang is fun, but… I was most impressed to speak with Joel Edwards, VP of Product Development, and his engineers who all share the same passion for getting students K-12 excited about careers in science and engineering. For more information about Gates Corporation, visit www.gates.com 

Mad About Science – a week-long salute to amazing science teachers

I approached my television producer with this idea several months ago… let’s invite viewers to nominate their favorite science teacher to receive a special visit from our morning crew at their school during our “Mad About Science” week at 9NEWS. My producer didn’t even have to think twice about the idea – do it! Within the first few hours after we made the announcement on-air, emails were coming in from all parts of Colorado. Every teacher nominated was worthy of a visit, but travel to some of the far reaching areas of Colorado played a factor in the selection process. The producers selected 5 amazing teachers who have their own special way of getting students excited about science.

Video: Day 1 of the Mad About Science Tour takes 9NEWS Science Guy Steve Spangler to the University of Northern Colorado on October 3, 2005.
We hit the road and made our first stop at the University of Northern Colorado to visit Professor Courtney Willis who prepare students for a career as classroom teachers. But these are no ordinary teachers of science… these pre-service teachers are getting hands-on experience in learning how to create science lessons with impact. Read more.

The explanation is simple if you understand physics and the principles of force, mass and weight. The weight of the person on the bed of nails is distributed across a greater surface area. One nail would be bad. Three thousand of them work fine.