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Extreme Science: The Virtual Edition

Extreme Science bed of nails experiment

Series of videos showcase daring and exciting physics and chemistry experiments

A show that has been getting kids excited about science for more than a decade went virtual this year – and caught hundreds of elementary school-aged children up in a challenge that saw 11 lucky classrooms win science supplies.

Every spring, Vancouver Island University (VIU) Physics Professor Ray Penner and his colleagues host Extreme Science, a show that combines physics and chemistry with entertainment in a series of awe-inspiring experiments. Searching for a way to continue the show during the pandemic, Penner teamed up with VIU’s Marketing and Advancement departments to put together a series of videos that could be shown in classrooms, with sponsors contributing enough money to buy science gear for 11 participating classrooms who submitted an answer to the riddle they were asked to solve.

From breaking a concrete block on Penner while he lies on a bed of nails, to an explanation of chaos theory using a double pendulum, to using sound waves to break glass, to what happens when you decide to snack on a graham cracker dipped in liquid nitrogen, each video explains the science behind the experiments Penner and his team perform.

“My main goal is to show students that science is cool – it’s why a lot of us are in it,” says Penner. “I want to get them not only excited about science, but also inspired to think about careers as scientists.”

Each video included hidden letters to find and when students collected the letters from all 10, they were asked to unscramble the letters to reveal a quote from a famous scientist. Each elementary school that unscrambled the quote correctly was entered into a draw to win $1,000 worth of science supplies, courtesy of VIU’s community partners: Coastal Community Credit Union and APEGBC, along with Herold Engineering, Lewkowich Engineering, SMCN Consulting, McElhanney, Tetra Tech, Rocky Point Engineering and RB Engineering.

Any members of the public who want to solve the riddle challenge from now until May 1 can email their answers to students@viu.ca to have their names put in a hat to win some VIU swag.

Here's the first video in the series: 

To view the full playlist of videos, check out Extreme Science - The Virtual Edition on YouTube

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