Today kids are not happy enough to play around with the old chemistry kits from yesteryear, they want more, they want real science. Recently the people behind the ISEF science fair, The Society for Science & the Public, launched a competition for children with the aim of letting children make their own modern version of a science kit for kids in the 21st century. Of course in today’s world, children do have access to a great deal more modern technology than what was around in the 60s and 70s.
The results of the competition are in and it was a handmade microfluidic kit that took first prize in the competition. This was made by a graduate student along with the help of his biochemistry professor. For those who don’t know, microfluidic tech is the stuff that is found in lab-on-a-chip devices which are used to analyse small amounts of liquid. These move around and mix chemicals through channels, which are of course very small, on platforms that are very small, such as the size of a computer chip. Scientists have been busy working on devising microfluidic devices that can mimic human organs. First they had to decide what chemical reactions to make in the kit for children.
Holes were then punched out of paper card and these holes corresponded to sequences and were then loaded with the correct chemicals. In order to make the reactions between the chemicals, kids had to then use the cards with a reader that worked with a hand crank. This then released the chemicals slowly, just one single drop for every hole that was punched in the card. Manu Prakash from the Stanford University, who was the professor who helped to make the system, made a statement saying that he could see kids in the future trading the reaction cards and could even become as popular as trading baseball cards were in the past.
In second place came a design of electrodes that when placed onto the body can sense electricity after it sent messages to the brain produced by the body whilst flexing muscles. To do this, electrodes were hooked up to amplifiers and then an electrical device such as a motor or light bulb. This allowed those using it to turn on something, for instance a propeller, simply by squeezing their hand or even just thinking about it.
Chemistry sets were always on the Christmas list of some boys and girls during the 60s and 70s but today they are more than just attaching wires to a battery and small light bulb. The competition could have sparked off a whole new trend when it comes to science kits and they could become the in-thing for budding inventors and scientists for Christmas 2014 and beyond.
For a full list of all winners and their bios head over to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
ORIGINAL: Interesting Engineering
April 15th, 2014