Past experiments

Robotics

We teamed up with some of the robotics experts at Green Girls to learn how to design robots of our own. Using motors, electronic boards, old cellphones, and a videogame controller, groups got to test their skills at designing and test driving a rover!

Students work together to build a robot

Environmental Engineering

Our environmental engineering experiment focused on treating lake water to produce clean drinking water. We demonstrated water treatment processes such as coagulation, flocculation, and filtration through chemical adsorption on granular activated carbon.
 
Coagulation experiment image
 

Astrophysics

Our astrophysics Queer Science Day experiment was designed to demonstrate how spectroscopy is used in an astrophysical context to determine the chemical composition of stars and other remote objects. Students used spectral gratings to view the spectrum of various arc lamps and identified the elements or molecules inside the lamps. We gave them actual stellar spectra printouts from a variety of stars to interpret. They could then determine the star’s age, composition, and stellar type.
 

Chemistry

students look at clear polymer solution in a sample tube
 
Our participants dissolved a polymer, to build longer and longer polymer chains. These polymer chains can be stretched to incredible lengths. We had a mini-competition to see who could stretch out the longest chain. The same polymer is often used to suture wounds.
 
Students hold up strings of polymer that looks like fishing line
 
Who says you can’t combine science and art?  Here we spent the morning performing organic chemistry by synthesizing a fluorescent dye which can be painted anywhere!
 
Students place samples under UV light so they fluoresce bright blue
 
In a past Queer Science Day, we did an iodine clock reaction that changed colors at different times depending on the ratio of starting materials. We've also an experiment called “What’s that chemical?” where students tested compounds for their physical properties, made a flowchart, and discovered the identity of an unknown compound.
 
One year we made ferrofluid — A ferrofluid (portmanteau of ferromagnetic and fluid) is a liquid suspension that responds to a magnetic field. The ferrofluid we made during Queer Science Day contained nanoscale magnetite particles suspended in water. Here’s a picture of the ferrofluid above a magnet. 
 
ferrofluid

 

Biochemistry 

Kelly Wallin, a volunteer, shows off her biochemistry skills. In this experiment, she performed size-exclusion chromatography. Using different solutions and filtrations, she separated different colored compounds in a dye based on their molecular weights.

A smiling volunteer holds up a strip of paper with blue and black separating dyes

Bioinformatics

Not all research needs a lab.  Newer fields like bioinformatics rely on computers. Here we have a fun, interactive puzzle demonstration to learn about shotgun metagenomics. Students were given a series of puzzles where they align sequences to build a complete genome! 

paper cutouts showing genomic letters A, G, T, and C.