High school students enjoy fun activities on Vincennes University Science Fridays


VINCENNES, Ind., September 29, 2023 – It’s Friday morning, and goggle-wearing high school students from Indiana and Illinois measure, mix, and stir ingredients over a hot plate in a Vincennes University chemistry laboratory. They are learning to formulate soap and beauty cream.

While they stir and mix, they learn the chemistry behind soapmaking and beauty cream as part of Science Fridays, fun and educational days hosted by the Vincennes University College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics.

VU will welcome nearly 400 students from high schools throughout Indiana and Illinois on Science Fridays in September and October.

“We believe hosting high school students for Science Fridays and similar hands-on learning experiences is a vital bridge between curiosity and realization,” VU College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Dean Curt Coffman said. “It’s a glimpse into the future, igniting the spark of passion for science, engineering, and mathematics. By opening our doors and sharing our cutting-edge facilities, Vincennes University hopes to inspire the next generation of professionals and innovators, fostering a love for SEM that will propel them toward meaningful and rewarding careers.”

Making soap and moisturizer are among several hands-on activities and exciting experiences high school students enjoy on Science Fridays. Through unique experiments, guided laboratory sessions, and interactions with VU professors, students are introduced to a wide range of careers and have the opportunity to envision their futures. They also tour the 200-plus-area campus and enjoy lunch in the Tecumseh Dining Center.

“This is my third year I’ve gotten to come, and it’s so much fun,” Northeast Dubois High School senior Emily Recker said.

Led by VU faculty, students learn about projectile motion by launching balls made of different materials and various sizes off a third-floor balcony of the ultra-modern Updike Hall – Center for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. Students also conduct DNA fingerprinting using gel electrophoresis in one of the University’s state-of-the-art labs, while others explore soil health and the watershed near the outdoor fountain next to Updike. More students discover how to measure the amount of heat involved in a chemical process through the calorimetry of snack foods by lighting potato chips, corn chips, and nacho cheese chips on fire. Other students sample fish populations using electrofishing techniques off campus at Kelso Creek. Others dissect animal organs.

According to Northeast Dubois High School science and math teacher Andrea Rickelman, Science Fridays improve her students’ access to state-of-the-art technology and more.

“This is an opportunity for students to have access to equipment,” she said. “We don’t have all of this equipment. We have one fume hood and here every station has a fume hood. The availability of materials is great at VU. Plus the students get access to the university to see what it is like, and then students may come here. This also gives me ideas of things to add to my own curriculum.”

For more information about the College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics and Science Fridays, visit www.vinu.edu/web/science-engineering-and-mathematics