The Next Generation: Fifth-grade student invents viable molecule in science class

Discussion in 'Chemistry' started by Tiassa, Feb 4, 2012.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    34,752
    The Next Generation

    We have seen a glimpse of the next generation of American scientists. It almost sounds like a story from The Onion: "Fifth-grade student pioneers new explosive", or something approximately like that.

    But the story comes to us from Humboldt State University's The Lumberjack; Marimar White-Espin explains:

    No arrests were made when 10-year-old Clara Lazen created an explosive in her classroom in Kansas City, Mo. Instead, her creation became the topic of a scientific article written by HSU chemistry professor Robert Zoellner.

    Lazen's teacher, Kenneth Boehr, introduced Border Star Montessori School's 5th grade class to the periodic table, molecules and chemical bonds. Lazen found the topic interesting and Boehr gave her the tools she needed to explore the subject.

    Equipped with a molecule-building kit, Lazen experimented with the colored wooden balls by creating existing molecules and some of her own.

    Lazen approached Boehr and asked if the molecule she created using the kit was real. Unsure of the answer, Boehr emailed his longtime graduate school friend and chemistry professor at HSU, Robert Zoellner.

    "Maybe [the molecule] is real and we'll find out," Zoellner responded.

    Upon further research, Zoellner discovered the particular molecule, tetrakis(nitratoxycarbon) methane, Lazen had created had never been discussed in literature and possibly had never been thought of before.

    The dense structure of the molecule suggests that it could be used as an explosive. Young Ms. Lazen explained, "I thought, 'Wow, it could go boom!'"

    Professor Zoellner is excited, though Humbold State's facilities are insufficient to actually synthesize the molecule. Having published around fifty or so articles, he admits that this is the first time he has had a fifth-grade student as a co-author. The article appeared in the journal Computational and Theoretical Chemistry last month.

    And there does seem to be a moral to the story, if we choose to extract one. Asked about the potential profit her discovery might bring, Lazen said she would share any money with Professor Zoellner and her teacher, Mr. Boehr. As White-Espin wrote: "After all, if it wasn’t for Boehr and Zoellner's efforts, the molecule Lazen created would have been disassembled and the building kit would have been put away."
    ____________________

    Notes:

    White-Espin, Marimar. "10-Year-Old Helps Professor With Theoretical Chemistry". The Lumberjack. November 16, 2011. TheLumberjack.org. February 4, 2012. http://thelumberjack.org/news/10-year-old-helps-professor-theoretical-chemistry
     
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  3. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

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    Fascinating. This is what we've been striving to do in the classroom.

    The internet has brought forth a whole new generation of teachers more able than ever. And the students are loving it!

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  5. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    This is part marketing on the part of the chemist - you know, to get people talking.
     
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