KU’s Frozen Flames carnival aims to ignite interest in chemistry

More than 350 people filled the basement room of Malott Hall on Sunday afternoon for the Frozen Flames chemistry show put on by Kansas University Chemistry Club.

The show’s topic: hot versus cold. Those cheering for fire sat on the right and supporters of ice on the left.

Dressed in lab coats and wearing rainbow wigs, KU students performed skits for hundreds of kids ranging in age from toddlers to high school students. The audience watched as Dr. Pyro exploded hydrogen balloons and Dr. Cool hammered nails with bananas dipped in liquid nitrogen.

“I especially enjoyed him popping the balloon filled with hydrogen and oxygen,” said Aidan Pierce, a fourth-grader at Broken Arrow School. “You could really feel the heat. Even in the sixth row.”

The show was just a small part of the 15th annual Carnival of Chemistry held Sunday afternoon at Malott Hall on the KU campus. The theme of this year’s carnival was “Behind the Scenes with Chemistry.” After the Frozen Flames show, audience members could wander up the stairs and visit the behind-the-scenes exhibits explaining in detail the chemical reactions going on in the show, such as explosions and fog production.

Roderick Black, director of laboratories for the KU department of chemistry, said not all of the children will understand the science, but the point of the carnival is to at least get them interested in science.

“Our goal is to motivate kids to study science,” Black said. “We encourage people to recognize the fun side of science and remember it’s not just about textbooks and the computer.”

Besides the show, about 40 volunteer chemistry students at KU helped organize several other exhibits, from a slime pit to the cookie walk of elements.

Chris Palmer, first-year grad student, assisted in the slime pit. Sporting an Einstein-style wig, Palmer helped students combine glue, borax, water and other elements to form a silly putty-like substance, which felt like snot to some students.

“I enjoy this because you get to see kids excited about science,” Palmer said. “They might not understand everything, but they make associations by seeing that if I put different things together fun stuff will happen, and that’s what chemistry is all about.”

Aidan said he went to the carnival because he likes chemistry, but he’s already got his mind set on which branch of science he plans to study.

“I want to be a particle physicist,” Aidan said.