Chemistry-boosting Bomb Squad targets area youths

Joe Pfender

The phrase “Bomb Squad” is not the first thing that comes to mind when considering the Lawrence’s Chemistry Outreach Club. After all, they do not actually make bombs. But the name is appropriate given the functions of the organization, an outreach group that primarily puts on chemistry demonstrations for elementary school classes from the Appleton area.
The Bomb Squad is mostly concerned with the excitement of learning and the natural world. The shows that they put on for fourth- through seventh-graders are not based on technical chemistry. Rather, they are demonstrations of a variety of basic physical and chemical laws in a context that is more accessible to children of that age.
Because of the absence of advanced concepts in chemistry or any other scientific field, the membership of the club is open to more than strictly “hard science” majors. Ben Hane, a junior German and history major who has been in the group since his freshman year, cited members from the humanities, sciences and music, saying that the club is open to anyone who is interested.
The presentations themselves consist of a number of skits, each one illustrating a different scientific principle. The club generally puts on six or seven of these shows in a given year in Youngchild 121, and one to three classes of students come to each performance. They are held at lunch hour, from 12:30 to 1:20. The last show of this year will be on Monday, May 2.
In recent years, the club has struggled a little bit due to loss of senior leadership, with current leader Matt Kornis taking up almost all of the responsibilities in continuing the club. Now, though, membership is on the rise and there has been a move to spread out responsibility. Kornis is a junior biology major and chemistry minor who joined at the same time as Hane. It has been easier for him this year, since “more people are stepping up” and taking the whole process more seriously.
There is more motivation, too, since the group is working on a new script – they have been working off the old one since Kornis and Hane came in. They have also been working with a Lawrence alumnus who works at the Children’s Museum downtown to set up some shows there.
In addition to tabling at the activities fair during Welcome Week every fall, the squad runs two shows for Lawrence students – one in fall and one in spring – to generate interest and involvement. While the group welcomes anyone who is interested, the attitude of the group is not one of desperation. It was refreshing to see a student group as confident in its own future as the Bomb Squad.
Bomb Squad meets Monday nights at 8 p.m. in Youngchild 121.