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Young scientists ought to wear safety glasses

Date published: 4/25/2014

Young scientists ought to wear safety glasses

The April 20 article titled "Budding scientists try building stoves" described a demonstration for building both an alcohol stove and a rocket jet stove that was hosted by the Dahlgren Heritage Museum in King George.

This exercise was directed at supporting STEM for encouraging interest in science and engineering, which is obviously highly commendable.

However, the photograph of a computer scientist showing students, ages 8-15, the procedure for doing this construction was seriously flawed because of the lack of basic safety. None of the participants was wearing any form of safety glasses.

In carrying out any experiment involving a chemical reaction--whether in a chemistry lab or in some other venue--safety goggles are always required and mandated by a whole host of professional safety organizations, including the Committee on Chemical Safety of the American Chemical Society.

In the alcohol stove, an exothermic reaction occurs when the alcohol is ignited and heat is given off, as well as carbon dioxide.

In addition to illustrating global warming, the experiment also demonstrates a lot of important thermodynamic principles similar to lighting a Bunsen burner fueled by natural gas and definitely would "spark" a student's interest in science.

The rocket jet stove requires kindling wood and takes longer to initiate reaction than the alcohol stove, although the reaction products are the same.

Those who carry out this type of demonstration, no matter how well intentioned, must not forget that safety is an integral part of this activity and should not be ignored.

Bernard Mahoney