SGSC Students Celebrate Mole Day

By Ethan Mitchell and Sarah E. Braswell

 

On Tuesday, October 24, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) Center on the Waycross campus of South Georgia State College (SGSC) hosted a chemistry show and potluck to celebrate Mole Day.  Over 50 students and faculty members arrived at the STEM Center to enjoy a student-led potluck which included everything from ham, to cake, and fantastic tortellini!  Afterwards, the crowd gathered outside to watch a chemistry demonstration hosted by SGSC Chemistry Professor Bernard Majdi.

In chemistry, a mole is a unit of measure that counts a specific number, like a dozen does.  While a “dozen” means “twelve” (12), though, a “mole” (also called Avagadro’s number) means six-hundred-and-two-sextillion – or 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.  Most often, though a mole is written in scientific notation so that it read 6.022 X 1023.  October 23, or “1023,” is, therefore, the perfect time to celebrate the mole and all things chemistry.  In fact, the week of 1023 – the last full week of October, is designated as National Chemistry Week.

For this year’s Mole Day celebration, Professor Majdi performed a number of exciting demonstrations.  One of the crowd-favorites was a reaction of potassium iodide and hydrogen peroxide, which produced a colorful expanding foam that expanded by separating the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.  Another reaction was the mixing of polyvinyl alcohol with sodium tetraborate (aka, borax) which produced colorful slime by creating cross-links between polymer chains. Other, more explosive reactions included the spontaneous combustion of potassium permanganate – initiated by the addition of glycerin (which occurred due to a transfer of electrons from the glycerin to the potassium permanganate), and an explosion resulting from the ignition of charcoal, potassium chlorate, and sulfur – the basic ingredients that make up gunpowder.  Those present were highly impressed by these displays, and praise came quickly.

In describing the moments that stood out to him during the demonstration, student Jimmy Clark stated, "Something I had never seen before was when [Majdi] made the slime, but I would say my favorite part was the foam."

Mary Allison Moody, Secretary for the SGSC Waycross campus' Student Government Association, expressed her approval with how the event unfolded by saying, "I thought the event was successful. A lot of students showed up and I felt like all the students were engaged with the activities. I enjoyed it."

The brainchild of a high school chemistry teacher, Mole Day was born in the 1980's, and each year, many schools celebrate it to generate interest in chemistry among their students through activities involving the science of chemistry.

Mole Day and its purpose fit well with the mission of the STEM Center, which aims to provide resources for students in an effort to help students be successful in their STEM classes and increase graduation rates for STEM fields. For more information about the STEM Center and the events it plans to sponsor in the future, contact Sarah E. Braswell at (912) 449-7501, or sarah.braswell@sgsc.edu.

SGSC Chemistry Professor Bernard Majdi performed experiments in celebration of Mole Day.