Though Malaysia has become an annual pilgrimage for the Chemotago team, we rarely have the privilege of returning to the same school twice. This year however we got to return to one of our favourite campuses from 2018: SMK Muara Tuang.
SMK Muara Tuang is a high school situated on the outskirts of Kuching. In typical Sarawakian style, it boasts a gorgeous colourful campus, clean breezy labs, and keen confident students: ideal conditions for a post-kemasains school visit.
After the customary light morning tea (curry, glutinous rice, chicken, sweet coffee, layer cake) the team split into three stations: two chemistry, one physics. The students would spend an hour at each station, before rotating so each group had a full session at each station.
The physics group (members of the Otago Optics Chapter) showed how lasers interact with polarised lenses, used spectroscopes to demonstrate how different elements emit distinct wavelengths of light, and explained how this is applicable to the identification of stars and planets.
The first chemistry station was a pair of hands-on chromatography sessions. First the students applied felt pen to TLC plates and watched it separate out, revealing the component colours of each ink. They then gathered leaves and flowers from the surrounding garden and performed their own seperations on them, producing some beautiful gradients. Hibiscus flowers produced a particularly vivid result.
The second chemistry station got to show off a new demonstration: how to make surfaces repel water. The experiment was designed by outreach team member Sean Mackay, based on a research article on producing transparent superhydrophobic coatings for paper. Another outreach veteran Sam McIntyre performed the material prep and with 5 hours of reflux, plus filtration and drying, it was a quick prep.
The results of the experiment easily justify the prep time. After mixing, applying, and drying the hydrophobic material, any liquid poured onto the surface completely fails to adhere, instead forming perfect spherical droplets which can be pushed around the surface, or pooling like transparent mercury.
You can check out a condensed video of the teaching session here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8WhGUG2l_k
This blog will be updated periodically as the trip progresses, but you can also keep up with the team on facebook, twitter, youtube, and Instagram at the following URLs
Otago chemistry outreach page: https://www.facebook.com/chemotago/