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2003 Winter Yerkes Institute

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Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2003

Phase Changes

 
Introduction
 
Instructors
 
Day Time Laboratories
 
Night Laboratories
 
Photo Gallery
 
Handouts

2003 Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2003
Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI

Theme: Phase Changes

Participants: 28 students; 10 instructors; 35 parents, siblings, and younger students.

Introduction

The Yerkes Winter Institute is three-day science immersion program held each year between Christmas and New Years during a break in the Chicago Public School academic year. The institute exposes inner city middle and high school students to research scientists and to the process of science. During the institute students cycle among three daytime laboratories, evening experiments, lectures, and observing (weather dependant). The institute culminates with presentations by the students to their parents and younger students about the institute laboratories.

The theme of the 2003 Winter Institute was Phase Changes, which was a natural extension of the weekly theme of temperature.

Photo Gallery
Institute Schedule & Background (PDF format)

Instructors

Charles BrassBill FisherWalter Glogowski
Sarah HansenRandy LandsbergThushara Perera
Joi PodgornyAndy PuckettSavdeep Sethi
Phil Wisecup  

Photo Gallery

Day Time Laboratories

States of Matter

Instructors: Sarah Hansen & Thushara Perera

This investigation first explored how different states of matter are defined and change. The students were given unknown balloons filled with a variety of substance (e.g., wood, sponge, water, air, helium, molasses) and asked to categorize them and in so doing define the different states of matter. They then were asked to predict what would happen to these "unknowns" when put into a freezer and tested their predictions. After exploring the effect of temperature, the students investigated the effects of pressure (more and less). This was done with the classic block of ice and wire experiment a.k.a. "how ice skates work", and boiling a liquid at a reduced temperature and pressure in a bell jar. Finally the students constructed phase diagrams based on their earlier investigations.

Photo Gallery
Handouts: The Changeable States of Matter, by Sarah Hansen (PDF format)

Liquid Crystals

Instructors: Walter Glogowski & Joi Podgorny

This laboratory directly combined temperature and phase changes as it involved constructing a thermometer with a liquid crystal. Cholestric liquid crystals are often used as thermometers that change color based on temperature (e.g. on fish tanks). Basically cholestric liquid crystals are rod shaped molecules arranged in a spiral and temperature alters the spacing and the pitch of the spiral, which in turn influences what color light will be reflected. The first student challenge was to construct a thermometer e.g., calibrate it by defining a color/temperature scale. Then using their own thermometers they tested if water transitioning from a liquid to a gas, evaporation, lowers temperature.

Photo Gallery
Handouts: Liquid Crystals, by Walter Glogowski (PDF format)

Popcorn

Instructors: Randy Landsberg & Bill Fisher

This experiment combined phase changes (water from liquid to gas) and consumer science by investigating the popping of popcorn. The students were challenged to devise ways to determine the percentage water by mass in the popcorn (typically 13-14% for commercial popcorn), and to determine popping statistics. After this investigation the students then chose among some suggested experiments and experiments they devised: comparing different brands of popcorn, examining the effects of soaking, examining the effect of drying on the popcorn, etc.

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Handouts: Popcorn - Cooking with Phase Changes, by Randy Landsberg (PDF format)

Night Laboratories

String Theory

Instructors: Savdeep Sethi

Professor Savdeep Sethi lead a discussion that described and demystified String Theory. The engaging conversation delved into multiple dimensions and sub quantum scales, and even employed rubber bands as a prop.

Photo Gallery

Weird States of Matter

Instructors: Sarah Hansen & Thushara Perera

Some times things do not fit into neat categories. This hands-on laboratory explored a number of exceptions to the standard states of matter including granular materials, plasmas, and oobleck (cornstarch & water).

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Last update: February 23, 2005