BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - You can hear children's voices cooing in awe and the hiss of rapidly evaporating fog. They are dumping liquefied carbon dioxide right on the stone floor of LSU's Energy, Coast and Environment Building.
LSU is hosting some smart middle schoolers, fifth through eighth grade. The students can walk through dry ice, and one student chases the spread all the way out of the room and keeps going.
"You Be The Chemist Day" is all about touching and doing the science.
Mark Wilson is an Ethylene Plant employee at Dow, here volunteering he points out the difference a day like this makes.
"In school you're gonna see the lot more, um, I guess at their age, not super theoretical, but you're gonna learn the fundamentals and the basics. Here you get to see a little more of the practical. And you get to go into more depth in some of these exercises than you normally would at school."
Dr. George Stanley of LSU's Chemistry Department has mesmerized his young audience. Parents who brought their kids here tend to linger to see the marvels of science unfold.
Dow sponsors STEM volunteers, Science Technology Engineering and Math, who teach kids deeper science. Greg Stowers is a STEM Ambassador. That gets him a crisp white lab coat with his name embroidered on it. Stowers explains why Dr. Stanley keeps encouraging kids to blow up balloons full of gas.
"Boom!" the balloon's blast reverberates in the room's domed ceiling.
"So he shows the kids how the different ratios of oxygen, nitrogen and helium react with each other," Stowers says, "It'll increasingly get louder as he changes the stoichiometry."
It is clear that these demonstrations, experiments are way more sophisticated than the baking soda and vinegar volcanoes kids are used to doing in school.
LSU's chemistry department does what no teacher in middle school would do, tell a kid to hold this blow-torch and another walk with a balloon with a certain mix of gases.
"Boom!" They explode several balloons, all with different balances of gas mixtures to find which one gives the loudest sound.
The biggest boom is the best stoichiometric mixture, Dr. Stanley tells kids.
Stowers says Dow lets you use work time for volunteering if you plan in advance how you'll do it and ask for the time to volunteer.
STEM ambassadors try to get plant workers excited. He says you "Go across all the functions to kinda bring the Dow Chemical people together."
He says some employees worry about taking the time away from work, but once they try it, they are bitten by the bug. They enjoy it so much, they understand why they should take the time with kids.
After a thrilling morning session, the kids hit a room with seats on an incline. An auditorium of sorts. This is really what "You Be the Chemist" is all about. It's a national competition. But Dow and LSU help them practice on the kinds of clickers they'll have in the competition. They do practice questions.
"The answer is 'D'-- Philadelphia. Notice there was a timer in the bottom right hand corner," an LSU instructor points out the screen that their clickers interact with.
For this part, Dow Employees are standing by as cheerleaders for this new generation of chemists. They enjoy seeing the spark happen in a student's eyes whether it's here at LSU or in schools they visit carrying the message that science is awesomely fun.
Capital One Bank, the United Way's Volunteer Center and WAFB are proud to honor people like the Dow STEM employees.