Popping, mixing, foaming science motivates kids | News

OTTUMWA — If science really was boring, why would dozens of kids line up — on a weekend — to see Professor Rick’s exploding, popping, mixing and foaming yet completely safe chemistry show?

Because that’s exactly what they did in a building behind the Ottumwa Public Library, which held a science program at the nearby Hub Coffee Shop; a grateful librarian said the Hub has a big stage they allow the library to borrow.

It was just right for the demonstrations and experiments conducted by Rick Brammer of the Quad Cities and his Absolute Science program.

“He uses elephant toothpaste,” explained Sophia Huffman, 9, who attends Seton Catholic School. “You put chemicals all together with Dawn dish soap, and it heats up.”

Like a flame?

“No, not that hot. The foam gets warm, but you still can’t touch it,” she said.

If it’s not really hot, why can’t one stick their hand in there?

“Because it’s full of chemicals!” Sophia said.

Professor Rick said this really was an attentive bunch of children. Several had questions for the scientist even after the show, something he enjoys.

“This was a good group,” Professor Rick said.

Another experiment showed the power of electricity: One jolt and a pan of puffed rice cereal burst into the air. The oohs and ahhs of the audience tell Brammer he’s achieving his goal.

“To motivate kids to be more engaged, to want to learn more about science” is, he says, his mission.

Later, Fremont schools student Chyanna Dewitt was questioning the professor about a reaction, and how to make it happen a little differently. She and most other kids seemed to leave the theater knowing at least one new word: “catalyst.”

While the demonstrations are meant to be education, motivational and entertaining, safety has to be the first priority. Professor Rick doesn’t recommend every experiment be tried at home, even with parents supervising. Some of his shows, for example, include the use of lasers and hydrochloric acid — though not always at the same time.

“We discuss which things they can do at home, and for which things they need to be under the supervision of a trained professional,” said Brammer.

Contact Courier staff writer Mark Newman at email