Annual Mole Day festivities bring thrill to science

Geneseo’s chemistry department made science come to life with its annual Mole Day celebration, which honors Avogadro’s Number: 6.02 x 10^23. 

Students, families, professors and young children filled Newton Lecture hall on Friday Oct. 27 from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. There were a series of science experiments performed by Director of Featured Content at the Rochester Museum and Science Center Calvin Uzelmeier. Uzelmeier has performed science demonstrations since 1991. 

“In order to get Geneseo students to come celebrate with us, we made flyers, sent emails and told the chemistry department to promote Mole Day,” Chemistry Club president senior Alyssa Vandermeid said.  

The first half of the event took place indoors in Newton Lecture Hall, while the second half was held outside in front of the Integrated Science Center. 

“Typically in the past, the Chemistry Club’s celebration for Mole Day was comprised of a plethora of chemistry demonstrations put on by members of the club and other student volunteers,” Vandermeid said. “This year, we wanted to make it more about the students so we hired a chemist who is used to doing large-scale demonstrations that we, as students, would not be able to do.” 

The first experiment used only a plastic bottle, two screws, a string and a cork. Uzelmeier described this combination as an engine that would undergo a combustion reaction. He demonstrated this process twice—once with a small bottle and once with a larger bottle—and showed the difference in reactions based on the size of the bottle. 

Uzelmeier kept the children in the audience very involved by posing many questions and asking for volunteers to assist him in performing the experiments. Before every demonstration, he explained to the audience exactly what he was doing in a simplified and engaging manner.

The next two experiments were physics related. The first of the two simply consisted of a rod and rosin. Using these materials, Uzelmeier rubbed rosin on the rod and generated a loud high pitch sound. He performed this experiment twice using two different sized rods and discussed the difference in the natural frequency based on the length of the rod. 

The second physics experiment involved the use of a tesla coil and a bulb in order to show the transfer of energy from one bulb to another. Uzelmeier briefly spoke about Nikola Tesla’s impact on the electricity system and how Tesla had used this process in hopes of generating energy for entire towns. 

The last indoor experiment demonstrated a hydrogen reaction using a balloon, a can of potato chips and a beach ball. The display used a heat source to ignite the reactions—Uzelmeier warned audience members to cover their ears before he applied heat to various objects.

Uzelmeier’s final performance was a violent exothermic reaction involving liquid nitrogen and boiling water that covered his entire body in suds and bubbles. 

The children in the audience were very enthusiastic throughout Uzelmeier’s entire show. He remained so engaging by constantly involving the younger members in the audience in his various experiments.

“I thought Calvin did an amazing job,” Vandermeid said. “He not only performed the demonstrations but he explained the physics and chemistry behind each one.”

Uzelmeier urged the families and children in the audience to continue seeking fun ways of exploring science.u