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Youngsters learn the sweet side of science at Super Science Saturday

News Release Distributed 10/14/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – Sodium alginate in LSU purple and gold attracted youngsters to the LSU Food Science Club’s booth at Super Science Saturday on Saturday, Oct. 11, at the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The LSU College of Agriculture students in the club were showing visitors how gummy candies can be made with two simple ingredients. Sodium alginate is a food-safe substance extracted from seaweed. When it is mixed with calcium chloride, a salt solution, the calcium ions replace the sodium ions and the mixture becomes gummy.

Kevin Driggers, a graduate student in food science, handed a pipette of purple sodium alginate to Faith Bridges of Walker. Bridges squeezed the pipette, releasing the alginate into a glass dish filled with the calcium chloride solution. The purple mixture immediately formed a gummy substance, resembling a gummy worm. Driggers took it from the water and showed it to the group assembled in front of him. Smiles broke out. Everyone wanted to touch it.

“It feels squishy,” said 9-year-old Luke Losavio.

The LSU Food Science Club called their experiment “Molecular Gastronomy: making alginate gummies.”

“Molecular gastronomy is a subfield of food science that explores the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in cooking,” said Namrata Karki, club president and a graduate student in food science.

Karki said it has been a tradition for the Food Science Club to participate in Super Science Saturday.

“It’s good to motivate and inspire kids and give them a better idea about what food science is,” she said.

The club chose its experiment to go along with the theme of this year’s Super Science Saturday – “Candy: The Sweet Side of Chemistry.” They gave out gummy bears and gummy worms to kids who participated in the experiment.

The event is sponsored by the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society, the LSU Department of Chemistry and the LSU Athletic Department and celebrates National Chemistry Week. The history of the event goes back 27 years, when volunteers held demonstrations at Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge. The event moved to LSU about 15 years ago.

George Stanley, a LSU professor of chemistry who coordinates the event, said it is something his department sees real value in because it reaches youngsters.

“Few K-12 students get to do much hands-on science in their schools,” Stanley said. “Here they get to see first-hand how exciting science really is.”

Many science-related clubs on campus had students staffing booths with an array of demonstrations and experiments. Several local chemical companies, including ExxonMobil, Albemarle and BASF, had employees conducting experiments, too. Representatives from Albemarle used the candy theme to show how marshmallows expand in a vacuum.

Tobie Blanchard
Last Updated: 10/14/2014 1:47:21 PM

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