Five scientists from Procter & Gamble shared their enthusiasm for science with students at Springer School and Center during a May 14 visit in which they held panel discussions and demonstrated scientific principles. The visiting scientists included Jessica Carless, Ph.D., Judson Haynes, Ph.D., Ian Henry, Ph.D., Cheryl Hunn, M.S., and Leo Oquendo, Ph.D., many of them members of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.
Under the scientists’ guidance, students dissected Pampers disposable diapers and observed the water absorbing qualities of sodium polyacrylate, which absorbs up to 300 times its weight in water. Students also participated in demonstrations of paper chromatography and the iodine clock reaction. Younger students made predictions about whether various candy bars would float or sink, then tested their predictions and recorded their observations.
The scientists also held panel discussions where student plied them with questions about their lives as scientists and how their work fits into the business of P&G.
Gathering the entire school on the piazza outside, Dr. Ian Henry wowed the students with several Mentos and Diet Coke geysers and made “elephant toothpaste,” a foam which poured out of a plastic bottle when an iodine solution was added to hydrogen peroxide and Dawn dish soap.
“I liked learning what it is like to be a scientist,” said fifth-grader Ally Iredale, “and that scientists make all the products we use.” Audrey Nickell added, “It was interesting to me to learn how business works.” Rex Morris and Connor Jackson were impressed with the elephant toothpaste. “I was surprised that it was a little hot – that the reaction gave off heat,” Jackson noted. Morris said, “I learned that you don’t wear your nice clothes when you make elephant toothpaste!”
“As scientists at P&G, each one of us can point to a critical person or experience that lit our fire of passion for science,” said Dr. Henry. “Springer has amazing students who just happen to learn differently. Our hope is that, by volunteering to raise awareness to STEM careers, we not only give a different perspective of scientists and the important role that diversity of talent and thought brings to research, but we also create that same ‘ah-ha’ moment for someone else. Quite frankly, the future success of P&G and companies like ours is dependent on the development of brilliant young minds who seek to pursue science as a career path.”