10th Grade Presentations on "The Chemistry of Life"
On Tuesday, April 23rd, Jackson Hole Classical Academy’s tenth grade students culminated their sophomore research project with a formal presentation to an audience of family, faculty, and students. The tenth-grade science curriculum is built upon the framework of understanding chemistry as the structure, composition, and behavior of the atoms and molecules which make up all of our natural world. In January, students were given the task of applying this knowledge by selecting a common item in their lives and researching the chemistry behind its composition, creation, and function. Pete Cook, Jacqueline Neishabouri, and Kim Ripley researched the chemistry of coffee, golf balls, and air-activated hand warmers, respectively.
In his presentation about the chemistry of coffee, Pete was fascinated by the chemical makeup of the aromas which are produced by coffees of varying origins and roasts. He explained that chlorogenic acids make up 400 of the different aromas which can be smelled and tasted in coffee. These aromas, he found, are developed and become recognizable through the two-stage process of roasting. He also told about the history of coffee and the legend of a goatherder’s flock which grazed on raw coffee plants and were not able to sleep at night, leading to the discovery and human consumption of coffee.
Jacqueline also brought some of her life experience into her presentation, as she described her love of golf and interest in the science behind the ball itself. Jacqueline learned about the three most popular models of golf ball produced by the brand Titleist and dissected the components of each model’s structure. Her in-depth analysis of the materials used included the functional benefits of each substance. For example, the shape memory properties of urethane elastomers used in the cover of a ProV1X golf ball prevent the ball from being deformed over time, a definite benefit for a serious golfer!
In her research about air-activated hand warmers, Kim Ripley found that the grocery store product actually uses relatively common substances to drive the heat-producing reaction. Iron, salt, carbon, and insulating materials make up the dark powders inside the heat packs. Kim explained that when the plastic bag holding the heat pack is opened, air hits the mixture of chemicals through the porous bag. Oxygen in the air reacts with iron to produce heat, a reaction which she reported will continue to disperse heat for several hours after the plastic seal is broken.
Through their research, each student came upon the realization that they had only just broken the surface of their study of chemistry’s role in everyday life. As they learn more and continue to develop a deep sense of wonder, their understanding of the structure and composition of matter will expand their curiosity in the world around them.
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