McWane#039;s electric experiments come to Greenville

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

Some think science is a chore, a bore and a snore.

They haven't encountered the wonders of McWane. Birmingham's McWane Center, to be exact.

Some of the delights of the popular hands-on science center came to the Camellia City last weekend, bringing smiles to the faces of young and old alike.

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It was Super Science Saturday at the Greenville-Butler County Public Library. A full house was on hand to watch Bill Hancock of McWane share the magic of chemistry, electricity and electromagnetism - plus an explosion or two – through McWane's "Three Ring Science" outreach program.

Hancock had no difficulty getting volunteers to assist him with his experiments, including Connally Walters of Greenville.

The FDA student donned safety glasses and manned the water bottle as "fire fighter" while Hancock showed how oxygen, heat and fuel combine for a chemical reaction.

"Look, the dollar bill caught fireŠbut it didn't burn. Why is that?" Hancock queried the audience.

His listeners caught on quickly to the fact it was the vapor from the alcohol the bill had been dipped in that burned off. The isopropyl alcohol was 30 percent water, "and water is used to put out fires, right?" Hancock said.

He also conducted experiments with common household products such as salt and baking soda, drawing many "oohs" and "aahs" as spectators took note of color changes and rising bubbles before their very eyes.

"It's pink-now, it's yellow!"

"Look at the foam!"

Two young volunteers got to perform a tug of war to see how electromagnets keep trains and roller coasters firmly on track.

"As the current flows through, it has a strong hold - and there are lots of applications for those," Hancock said.

"Ever seen one of those machines that picks up old cars in a salvage yard and moves them to the crusher? They simply flip a switch to cut off the flow of current and it lets go of the car right when they want to drop it," he added.

Youngsters lined up to enjoy a hair-raising experience - literally - when they tried out the Vandergraf generator as part of a fun lesson on static electricity.

Howls of laughter erupted when FDA student David Miller's blond locks shot straight up into the air, while Sami Sipper of Greenville Elementary enjoyed the chance to make her long red mane go completely wild.

"This has been great. The kids all thought this was the cool place to come today," Paige Barr, a teacher at W. O. Parmer said with a smile.

"This was a good day. We had a wonderful turnout," Jean Bauer, children's librarian, said as she passed out goodies to the departing youngsters.

Bauer encourages everyone to come out and celebrate the 90th birthday of that children's favorite, Raggedy Ann. The celebration is slated for Friday afternoon, Sept. 30 at the library.

For more information about upcoming library events, contact the GBCPL at 382-3216.