CU Wizards thrill crowds with Halloween tricks
A fire-breathing pumpkin, balloons that exploded into flames, disintegrating Styrofoam, and a jack-o-lantern that “vomited” soap were all part of the CU Wizards’ “The Magic of Chemistry” show on Oct. 21.
The CU Wizards program, now in its 30th year, strives to introduce people to basic science concepts through fun, engaging and hands-on presentations in the fields of chemistry, physics, astronomy and biology.
“The shows are intended for grades five through nine, but as you can see, all ages seem to enjoy it,” said Veronica Bierbaum, the chemistry professor who hosted the event.
Room 140 of the Cristol chemistry building brimmed with excited children and parents eager to witness the colorful experiments. The lights were dimmed as the show started, and a recording of blowing wind echoed through the lecture hall. Then, an eerily carved pumpkin at the front of the room suddenly spit a large fireball from its mouth.
The show continued with nearly 15 experiments conducted by “wizards-in-training,” or CU graduate chemistry students. Topics included combustion reactions, light and color, polymers and rates of reactions.
“These experiments are fascinating and appear magical, but they are all based on well-understood principals of science,” Bierbaum told the audience near the beginning of the show.
Nicole Eyet, a “wizard-in-training” who conducted the light and color experiments, said she enjoyed the audience reactions.
“It’s interesting to see how excited people get,” said Eyet, who has been involved with the Wizards for two years.
The Wizards encouraged audience participation by distributing clickers throughout the crowd, which were used to respond to questions that were posed periodically during the show. Also, the children each received personal glow sticks.
Some younger members of the audience took advantage of the Halloween theme to try out their costumes. In attendance were a snow queen, a kitty, a spider-witch and a knight.
“Halloween is a magical and mysterious time of year,” Bierbaum said as the experiments were conducted.
The performance received rave reviews from the crowd.
“I liked the flaming pumpkin,” said 6-year-old Araceli Tarrant.
Nate Huey, a 10-year-old audience member, agreed.
“The pumpkin was my favorite. I liked that the candle was inside it, and then all the sudden it exploded,” he said.
The next CU Wizards performance will be on Nov. 18 and will be titled “The Physics of Sports.”
Go to www.colorado.edu/physics/Web/wizards/cuwizards.html for more information.