High School SMILE Meeting
07 February 2006

John Scavo (Kelly H.S.)          The Mousetrap Car
showed a mouse trap car that he obtained from Hobby Lobby for about $10 for his third grade son. The kit for construction of the mouse trap car is made by Doc Fizzix: see the website http://www.docfizzix.com/. The kit is made from simple items that you could find at hardware stores, hobby stores, etc. (balsa wooden pieces, clear CD's for wheels, Elmer's Glue® for assembly, etc.). A thread was wrapped a number of times around one axle, and was hooked over a metal arm attached to the spring mechanism of a strong, but ordinary mouse trap. When the arm was released it moved back slowly as it pulled the string, causing the axle to turn and the car to move. According to the instructions, the trigger from the spring mechanism is removed, for reasons of safety.  It traveled for about 18 meters ( 60 feet), coasting to a stop after the spring was completely unwound.  This is short of the current record of about 111 meters!

Keep on trucking!  Thanks, John.

Fred Schaal (Lane Tech)          Prose and Poetry Day
talked about a class period between the first and second semesters, which he uses as a prose and poetry day. He read us a poem with a whimsical tribute to the number three -- Threes by John Atherton  http://holyjoe.org/poetry/atherton.htm -- with apologies to Joyce Kilmer!  He also read a small portion of a poem that is a parody of the famous nonsense poem Jabberwocky, which appeared  in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carrollhttp://www.jabberwocky.com/carroll/jabber/jabberwocky.html. He also shared some limericks, all having to do with topics in mathematics.  His poems were obtained from the anthology Fantasia Mathematica, edited by Clifton Fadimanhttp://math.cofc.edu/kasman/MATHFICT/mfview.php?callnumber=mf21.

Terry Donatello (Weber HS, retired!)          Nuclear Sciences
started by noting that with the high price of oil and fears of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, nuclear power is on the upswing. The activity involves a game (Nuclear Sciences, described in the November 1990 issue of the journal Re-actions, published by the American Nuclear Societyhttp://www.ans.org/pi/edu/teachers/reactions/).  It is played with a special deck of cards (handmade by Terry), each with a step in the nuclear chain reaction. There are seven different cards (steps) in each complete set. The "game" is best played in groups of about three or four, and a full deck will contain as many full sets as there are players. The cards are dealt to all players (5 cards each) with the remaining cards placed in the center. The object is to be the first one to get a complete set of seven cards (from the initial dealing and cards picked up from the pile in the center), describing the following complete sequence of steps:

fast neutrons ® Moderator ® Slow Neutrons ® Nuclear Hit ® Nuclear Stretch ® Fission
Neato, Terry!

We continued with a brief discussion of radiation dosimetry: http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/ .  A person's average dose is 350 millirads per year -- slightly higher for those who live at higher altitude. Significant tissue damage occurs at a much higher level -- around one hundred rads. Foods containing potassium (bananas, oranges, potatoes, and meat) are somewhat radioactive, since about 1% of potassium occurs as the radioactive isotope K40. It was also mentioned that the dust accumulated on the screen of a television set or computer monitor may be somewhat radioactive, because ions from decay of Radon gas and Carbon-14 are attracted to that surface. For details see the Amateur Radiation Detection and Experimentation webpage http://www.blackcatsystems.com/science/radiation.html, from which the following has been excerpted:

"Did you know that the dust that's in the air and settling all over your house (and computer monitor) is radioactive? It's true, it contains radioactive decay products from naturally occurring Uranium and Thorium.

As an experiment, I wiped some dust from the TV screen onto a tissue, and placed it in front of the radiation detector. The reading went from a background reading around 10 CPM to around 1300 CPM, or 130 times the (background) reading!"

Pat Riley (Lincoln Park HS)            Covalent Bonding for the Inclusion Class
brought a tactile activity that she uses in her "inclusion class" which is a combination of special ed students and students with social problems. Pat is trying to teach them about chemical bonding in a way that avoids the math and other abstract concepts with which they have difficulty. Pat's handout sheet explains this in detail. It shows squares containing the symbols for various elements and a pattern of asterisks around the symbol which depict the valence electrons and their paired or unpaired arrangements. Each square then represents an atom of that element. Squares are placed together so that unpaired electrons match to make a pair, and squares are added until all electrons in the pattern are in pairs. For example, a pattern (compound) with only H and S atoms, which uses the fewest atoms overall, would have one S square and two H squares, each H square adjacent to an "unpaired" electron in the S square, and would be H2S.

      ___    _____    ___ 
| | | ** | | |
|H *|==|* S *|==|* H|
|___| |__**_| |___|

H2S Hydrogen Sulfide [covalent bonds as indicated by " == "]
Although this is a low-functioning group, Pat is able to impart some aspects of electronegativity, and the order of electronegativity among atoms, how atoms come together to form compounds (as shown above), various energy states (the compounds being in a more stable state than the individual atoms), and how compounds are named.

Nice stuff!  Thanks, Pat.

Larry Alofs is scheduled first at our next SMILE meeting, Tuesday February 21, 2006, at 4:30 pm in room 152 Life Sciences building:

Notes prepared by Ben Stark and Porter Johnson.