Chem Demo | LSU Chemistry


LSU ChemDemo Program

The LSU ChemDemo program currently involves various sections of our introductory chemistry courses (General Chemistry 1201/1202; Honors: General Chemistry 1421/1422; Analytical Chemistry 2001, Organic Chemistry 2261) and a couple of upper level courses (Organometallics 4571; Inorganic Chemistry 4570).  Interested faculty members who teach sections of these courses assign a bonus (or required for smaller classes) homework assignment to the class that involves visiting a K-12 school, teaching a thematic set of chemistry and science concepts that are backed-up with exciting hands-on demonstrations to illustrate those concepts for a class of students.  We currently have ten sets of tested, safe demonstrations for the LSU students to choose from that usually involve hands-on participation of some or all of the students in the classroom that is being visited.  We provide detailed instructions for each set of experiments that includes a list of chemicals and items needed, how to perform and explain the science behind the demonstration, presentation tips, and connections of the chemistry/science involved to everyday life.   

The ChemDemo Program was initiated by Prof. George Stanley in the Fall of 1997.  The following list outlines the participation in this program:

Semester, Year # LSU Students # K-12 Classrooms Professors Involved
Fall, 1007 229 110 Stanley, Limbach
Spring, 1998 267 103 Nauman
Fall, 1998 302 153 Lyon, Nauman, Stanley
Fall, 1999 233 121 Limbach, Stanley
Spring, 2000 146 71 Kolniak
Summer, 2000 55 18 Kolniak
Fall, 2000 240 108

Kolniak, Maverik

Spring, 2001 420 202

Kolniak, Stanley

Summer, 2001 71 23


Fall, 2001 332 139

Kolniak, Stanley, Hammer

Spring, 2002 312 138

Kolniak, Stanley, Hammer

Summer, 2002 76 25


Fall, 2002 162 85


Spring, 2003 425 248

Kolniak, Stanley

Summer, 2003 84 32


Fall, 2003 225 102

Kolniak, Maverick

Spring, 2004 385 176

Kolniak, Stanley

Summer, 2004 96 36


Fall, 2004 394 215

Kolniak, Stanley

Spring, 2005 310 205

Kolniak, Stanley

Summer, 2005 89 42


Fall, 2005 196 92

Kolniak, Stanley, Schmidt

Spring, 2006 301 143

Kolniak, Stanley, Schmidt

Fall, 2006 141 98

Kolniak, Stanley, Garno

Spring, 2007 209 142

Kolniak, Stanley

Fall, 2007 171 77


Spring, 2008 280 151

Kolniak, Stanley, Butler

Fall, 2008 239  133 Kolniak, Stanley, Garno
Spring, 2009 222 170 Kolniak, Stanley
Fall, 2009 191 89 Kolniak, Garno
Spring, 2010 359 169 Kolniak, Stanley
Fall, 2010 394 248 Kolniak, Nesterov, Stanley
Spring, 2011 576 321 Kolniak Nesterov, Stanley
Fall, 2011 572 332 Kolniak, Nesterov, Stanley
Spring, 2012 444 207 Kolniak, Stanley
Fall, 2012 647 274 Kolniak, Nesterov, Maverick, Stanley
Spring, 2013 635 217 Kolniak, Stanley
Fall, 2013 916 383 Kolnaik, Stanley, Nesterov, Garno
Spring, 2014 821 291 Kolniak, Stanley, Schneider
Fall, 2014 830 375 Kolniak, Maverick, Nesterov, Kizikaya, Schneider, Stanley
Spring, 2015 785 311 Kolniak, Stanley, Magut
Totals 13,782 6,575  

 Since Fall, 1997 we have sent out 13,782 LSU undergraduates who visited 6,575 classrooms impacting over 162,000 K-12 students.  This is the largest K-12 outreach/service-learning activity in the United States that we know of.  As part of these ChemDemo classroom visits, we obtain evaluations from the K-12 teachers about how well the LSU students did with their demonstrations.  Virtually all the LSU students received the maximum possible ranking and in the comment section of the evaluation the K-12 teachers raved about the ChemDemo program. We also have the LSU students write a 2-4 page essay about their classroom experience.  Many of these essays contain vivid descriptions of how amazed the LSU students were at performing chemistry (and science) demonstrations in front of a class and how eager, excited, and enthusiastic the students in the classroom were.  

We usually recommend that two LSU students visit a K-12 classroom to perform the demonstrations, although as few as one or as many as six students have visited classrooms in the past.  When more than 2 students visit a classroom we recommend that they perform demos for enough classes at that school to approximately equal one class for every two students.  The LSU students are expected to purchase or obtain some (or most) of the supplies needed for the demonstration (glue, bowls, water, simple containers, paper towels, etc.).  The LSU Chemistry Department provides the more specialized supplies and chemicals (like liquid nitrogen, dry ice, chemiluminescent glowsticks, Tesla coils, etc.).  Having the college students provide most of the more common supplies needed for the demo makes the program quite cost efficient and considerably less burdensome to administer. 

External support for this program has been increasing with donations from the Albemarle Foundation ($2,000/yr for 2011-present), the Baton Rouge local section of the American Chemical Society ($2,000/yr since 2010), and ExxonMobil ($3,000 for 2015).  BASF and the LSU Cain Center for STEM Literacy are also supporting ChemDemo via financial support ($2,000 from Cain Center) or donations of specialty materials (urethane foam ingredients from BASF).  For 2011-12 a one-year $130,000 grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents awarded to LSU CxC and CCELL is expanding ChemDemo to a more general ScienceDEMO program.  This involved Geology and additional sections in Chemistry.   

A summary of most of the current experiments:


Grade General Topic / Demonstrations

The Atmosphere: Liquid Nitrogen (LN2), Liquid Oxygen (LO2), Solid CO2 (dry ice), & Water Vapor

This experiment involve using LN2 to let the students "see" the major components in the air around us. LN2 has a temperature of -196°C and freezing and shattering a flower is alway impressive. Pouring LN2 into an empty soda can causes a thin layer of liquid oxygen to form on the outside and drip off. CO2 is one of teh things we exhale and solid CO2 can be dropped in a container of water to make a "witches brew" effect. Having the students blow air into the LN2 causes water vapor to condense out making "clouds".


Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

This is a "fun" activity and can be combined with "The Atmosphere" demo to provide a treat for a class.


Polymer Fun: Disappearing Styrofoam and Starch

When Styrofoam is added to acetone (a common organic solvent) it very rapidly dissolves, making it look like it is disappearing. Starch-based packing "peanuts", on the other hand, will not dissolve in acetone, but do readily dissolve in water. Environmental consequenses of these two properties will be discussed with the class. The melted plastic can be recovered from the acetone to make hard styrofoam plastic (illustrating recycling).


Silly Putty: Synthesizing a Polymer

Adding Elmers School glue (or generic brand School Glue) to a water/borax solution causes a chemical reaction between the glue molecules (polyvinylacetate) and the borax molecules (Na2B4O7*10H2O) to produce a highly flexible, cross-linked polymer. This is similar to silly putty (real silly putty is a polymer based on organosiloxy groups and doesn't dry out). A hands-on experiment that all students in the class will do.


Acids & Bases

NaHcO3 and vinegar is used to shoot a cork out of a bottle demonstrating that some acid-base reactions generate gases like CO2. A voice-activated chemical reaction (speaking into a flask containting base and an indicator that changes color once enough CO2 is introduced); pH color changes are illustrated using a basic solution, univeral indicator and solid CO2; the reaction of a metal and acid is shown using Mg and Sprite.


Energy: Electricity, Heat, and Light

The properties of electricity are discussed and demonstrated with a Tesla coil and a simple generator allowing the students to turn work into electricity/light. Chemical reactions to make electricity, heat, and light are also preformed. The ability to convert one form of energy into another is illustrated and discussed.


Light Producing Chemical Reactions

Experiments with "quantum fireballs" (burning metal colors), chemiluminescence, and burning magnesium in dry ice.



Kinetics, Equilibrium, and Catalysis

The rates of chemical reactions as a function of temperature will be discussed via the use of light sticks at 3 different temperatures. The concept of activation barriers to chemical reactions is illustrated via the H2/O2 balloon explosion. The catalytic decomposition of H2O2 and oscillation Iodine reaction are also performed along with the chemical principles involved.



Stoichiometry is Fun: Bubble Combustion Experiments

Stoichiometry concepts are explored by students making soap bubbles using various ratios of O2 and combustible gases such as H2, CH4, and CH3CH2CH3 (propane) and then igniting them. The loudest "bang" indicates the correct stoichiometry. Overall chemical reactions can be worked out and an unknown gas identified.


Material Science: Superconductors, Ferrofluid, and Shape Memory Alloys

Experiements demonstrating some of the science and chemistry of high temperature superconductors, magnetic ferrofluids, and shape memory alloys.

Detailed write-ups for the experiments are available from Prof. George Stanley.


Kids making silly puttyAnne Price and Tim Robichaux (not shown) visit Mrs. Bennett's Class at Baker Heights Elementary School in 1997 and have the class make "Silly Putty."

Kids making silly puttyDanny Pino and Jamie Bordelon visit Mrs. Brunson's class at Bernard Terrace in 1997 and have the class make "Silly Putty."

Kids doing acid-base experimentsAggie Domino and Elizabeth McDaniel visit Mrs. Smith's Class at Parkview Baptist Elementary School in 1998 performing Acid-Base Experiments.

Kids doing Atmosphere experimentsLien Le and Anna Vu visit Mrs. Marino's third grade class at Cedarcrest Elementary School in 1999 and perform the Atmosphere Experiments.

Kids doing atmosphere experimentsHollie LeMaire visits Mrs. Leonard's class at Forked Island - East Broussard Elementary School in 1999 to do the Atmosphere Experiments.

Kids doing atmosphere experiementsHollie LeMaire visits Mrs. Leonard's class at Forked Island - East Broussard Elementary School in 1999 to do the Atmosphere Experiments.

ChemDemo Student Quotes from Reflection Essays:


“Not only did we learn something new about science, but we got an unforgettable opportunity to teach children.”  – Heather Gallmann


“I really had a good time during this project and also learned a lot about chemistry by teaching it to others.”  – Misty Rabalais


“It was a fun and exciting project for both the students and me.”
– Aimee Gravois


“We all enjoyed this project and really felt that we have a better understanding of energy now that we have taught others about it.” 
– William Saint


“This was an experience I will never forget.  The students along with the teachers had a blast, and so did I.  It was a lot of fun and the kids seemed to learn a lot.”  – Robert Earhart


Longer quotes from my 2003 Organometallic class: 

“The teaching aspect was great, but what blew me away were the kids, the science, and the whole experience. One of the coolest parts of this experience was the subject matter. I get to teach for the Princeton Review, but it isn’t science so I never realized how much fun teaching chemistry could be. This was so surprising to me because chemistry is definitely not my strongest subject and I had lots of concerns that I would have enough mastery over it to handle a classroom full of students.”  “All of the students were fully engrossed in the demos and seemed like they didn’t want the class to end.  It was great to see them enjoying themselves and actively participating in the lectures.”  “I loved every part of it and would recommend it to all of my classmates.”

Michael Goebel (Biological Sciences major; Kinetics, Equilibrium & Catalysis demo for Bishop Sullivan High School, Baton Rouge, LA)


“I really enjoyed this experience and I really liked working with this age group.” “I’ve been thinking about teaching a high school class during my year off, if I don’t get into medical school this year. This experience made me believe that teaching would be a very good experience. I also enjoyed that students were able to test my knowledge of the subject matter. This helped me connect the dots and this improved my confidence that I may make a pretty good teacher.”

Christy Hartmann (Biological Sciences major, Atmosphere Demonstration, Parkview Baptist High School, Baton Rouge, LA).


“Prior to doing this demonstration, I never thought that I could be a teacher. However, when the students asked their teacher if they could schedule the balloon experiment for another day, I became very excited, knowing that I helped these students enjoy chemistry.” “This experience really was enjoyable. I liked that the students seemed truly interested in what I had to say. I would definitely take part in a program of this nature in the future.”

Megan LaRose (Biological Sciences major; Kinetics, Equilibrium & Catalysis demo for Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans).


“I think that this kind of demo is excellent for students to see. Many people learn better visually than verbally (lectures). Also, it is important to get younger people interested in science and let them see how interesting and fun science can be. This was a fun experience for Christy and for me. We enjoyed being in front of the class and saw that it would be fun to teach high school chemistry. I am planning on being a middle school science or math teacher, and if I teach science I would like to regularly include demos and experiments so that they can experience this type of science instead of only hearing about it or reading it in their text. Students remember concepts and ideas a lot better when they learn it by hands-on experiences. I know that the students learned from our visit and I know that I made the right decision to teach instead of become an engineer.”

Sarah Marks (Education major; Atmosphere demo for Parkview Baptist Elementary School, Baton Rouge, LA)


“I think that the overall experience was great for both the students and us. I would never have imagined that I would have so much fun teaching others about chemistry. I think that more classes should visit schools because our visit allowed the students to see that science is cool, college students are cool, and the work that they are doing now is not in vain because they will be able to use that knowledge in college if they desire to go.”

Catherine Thomas (Chemistry major; Atmosphere demo + Acid & Bases demo for Episcopal High School, Baton Rouge, LA)


“One student seemed so fascinated by the demonstration that she came up to us afterwards and said that this had helped her make the decision to be a chemistry major in college. This made us all happy. I enjoyed doing the demonstrations for these students very much, because they were all genuinely interested in it, and participated throughout the demonstration. I had a lot of fun.”

Megha Patel (Biological Sciences major; Kinetics, Equilibrium & Catalysis demo for Bishop Sullivan High School, Baton Rouge, LA)


“At the end of the session, we asked the students who thought chemistry was cool before the experiment and about a third raised their hands. We then asked them who thought it was cool after the experiment, and they all raised their hands!” “I liked the silly putty experiment because they were able to be very involved, which may help them to better remember what they learned. And, most importantly, maybe more of them will come to LSU to study chemistry in some way. I was completely amazed by just how bright third and fifth grade students are!”

Katherine Tallant (Agricultural major; Silly Putty experiment at St. Jean Vianney Elementary School, Baton Rouge, LA)


“Overall, this experience was very interesting. I had a lot of fun, and I know the students and teacher enjoyed the Chem Demos. This was a great opportunity not only to show students that chemistry is interesting and that there is logic behind almost everything, but to answer many questions students had about college.  We were able to encourage students and tell them about our majors and the many opportunities chemical engineers have today.”

Rebecca Valladares (Chemical Engineering major; Kinetics, Equilibrium & Catalysis demo for Destrehan High School, Destrehan, LA)