Bridgewater State College students win national chemistry contest

Chemistry students from Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Mass., have won first place in the national "Chemvention" contest — sponsored by the American Chemical Society — to create a toy that teaches a concept of chemistry. The winning entry from the Bridgewater team was "The Green Machine," an interactive toy that teaches principles of green chemistry.

The members of the Bridgewater State College team are Sarah Lane, Lindsay McDonald and Beth Collins. The team’s advisors on this project were Drs. Ed Brush, Frank Gorga and Cielito De Ramos-King. For its winning entry, the team received a prize of $2,000 for the purchase of a computer system.

The design, which covers an area of 24 inches by 24 inches, uses a cascading system of chemical reactions. It takes approximately two minutes to demonstrate principles of acid-base chemistry, solubility, gas laws and electrolyte conductivity, using lights, bubbles, colored liquids, a solar panel and a simple piston.

The aim of green chemistry is to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of toxic substances. Its standards include using benign starting materials, conserving energy, reducing the toxicity and rate of waste production and utilizing renewable energy sources.

Reagents for The Green Machine are all household items such as vinegar, baking soda, table salt and red cabbage. The only waste products of the system are oxygen, carbon dioxide and aqueous solutions safe enough to be disposed of in a compost heap or flushed down a drain. The Bridgewater team hopes the solar-powered design will interest young children in science and the search for renewable energy sources.

Chemvention is an annual team event in which Student Affiliate chapters of the American Chemical Society compete to solve a common problem without exceeding a budget of $250. The Bridgewater students spent $113.80 on materials for their winning entry. The winners of the competition were announced at the recent spring meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

The other finalists in the Chemvention competition were teams from Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md., Manhattan College/College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale, N.Y., Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., and Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas.

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The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.


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