Tasting the thrill of science

EVERETT — Ignat Gabov, 12, slowly hammered a nail into a small metal compressed gas canister. One cautious hit, two cautious hits. Suddenly, the canister blew its top, shooting carbon dioxide vapors straight up and prompting shouts of surprise from Ignat and three other students seated at the table.

Ignat and the others were students at the Increasing Diversity in Engineering and Science camp at Everett Community College last week.

The free camp introduces minorities and girls in middle school to science and engineering careers. EvCC instructors and scientists volunteer to teach the students at the weeklong camp.

Christina Castorena, associate dean of diversity at EvCC, said the camp targets middle schoolers because research shows it’s a critical time to get students thinking about careers.

“The whole premise of the camp is to get them excited about engineering and science,” Castorena said.

Ignat attends North Middle School in Everett. Coming to the camp was exciting, he said.

“I like math better, but science is second,” Ignat said. “I liked today.”

On Friday, students learned about heating and cooling through experiments using liquid nitrogen and the mini- carbon-dioxide canisters.

Ardi Kveven, director of EvCC’s Ocean Research College Academy, led the 30 students through several experiments, including making ice cream using liquid nitrogen.

As Kveven poured liquid nitrogen from a cooler into a bowl, nervous voices piped up from the back of the classroom.

“Is this a really dangerous liquid?”

Answer: Liquid nitrogen has a boiling temperature of minus 250 degrees. So yes, it can be dangerous.

“What happens if it touches your hand?”

Answer: It freezes the tissue.

Before long, students were carefully dipping balloons in the liquid and watching them collapse and expand like miniature lungs taking in air.

This year was T.J. Buehler’s second at the camp. T.J., 14, attends Cavalero Mid-High School in Lake Stevens. Experimenting with liquid nitrogen and building models of bridges topped his favorites list.

“I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” T.J. said of the camp.

Then talking about the ice cream, he said: “I didn’t know liquid nitrogen was edible.”

Counselor Amanpreet Bhathal, 17, attended the camp three years ago as a student. She enjoyed it so much that she eventually enrolled in EvCC’s ocean academy. Next year she will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree.

Bhathal said the camp is a good introduction to all things science.

“I think it really helps kids figure out what they want to do in life,” she said. “People should come if they like science, but they aren’t sure what they want to do.”

Reporter Jasa Santos: 425-339-3465 or jsantos@heraldnet.com.

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