VIU professors present Extreme Science show

Physics and chemistry faculty are getting their props and concoctions ready for the fourth annual Extreme Science show at VIU.

Physics and chemistry faculty are getting their props and concoctions ready for the fourth annual Extreme Science show at Vancouver Island University.

The startling and occasionally loud demonstrations will entertain close to 1,200 students in four shows this year.

Tickets are available for the public presentation of explosions, implosions, flying arrows, fire, lightning and illusions at Malaspina Theatre on the Nanaimo campus at 7 p.m. Thursday (May 17).

Tickets are $10 and are available from Kool&Child on Bowen Road.

“It’s a challenge each year to come up with new demonstrations on a tight budget but it’s fun creating them and seeing people’s response when we try them out,” said Ray Penner, VIU physics professor.

The show is being staged by six faculty from the physics department – Greg Arkos, Debbie Hearn, Owen Peer, Jim Slater, Frank LoPinto and Penner – along with two faculty from chemistry – Peter Diamente and Sandy Patrick.

VIU student Greg Vandergrift and former VIU student Richard Salmon are also helping.

“It’s rewarding for us as a group to get kids excited about science,” said Penner. “And it goes the other way too. The response from the kids certainly keeps us ‘extreme scientists’ excited about putting on the show.”

Extreme Science is a popular spring fundraiser for LED Africa, a charity started by Penner.

The organization aims to provide solar-powered lighting systems to rural secondary schools in Malawi, Africa. Penner developed a connection with Malawi when he taught there 20 years ago.

In 2008, Penner and his colleagues from the University of Malawi set up a test system at a school using energy efficient LED lights powered by a solar panel on the roof. The total power required for a 50-student classroom is about 40 watts, which keeps expenses low.

After a positive response from the test school, Penner created LED Africa. Lighting systems were installed in classrooms at three schools in 2009 and six more schools in 2010, with the help of technicians from the University of Malawi.

In 2011 LED Africa installed classroom lighting systems at an additional five secondary schools in Malawi bringing the total to 14 schools. The cost to set up a classroom is $1,200, with two classroom systems being installed at each school.

The single solar panel, the battery, and cables which are required for each classroom are purchased from suppliers within Malawi. The battery box, which holds the battery and the controls, as well as the stands for the LED lanterns are built by local Malawian carpenters. The lanterns are all assembled by Malawians.

This year’s Extreme Science show is sponsored by Herold Engineering Ltd., Anderson Civil Consultants, Fairwinds Golf Club and VIU.

For questions about Extreme Science, please e-mail extreme.science@viu.ca.

For more information on the Malawi project, please go to www.LEDafrica.org.

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