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Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Winged Post

Chemistry students conclude school year with a blast

Kairui Sun
Benjamin Xia (10) savors his ice cream with his friends after watching the class’s hydrogen rockets. The ice cream lab reinforced concepts of thermodynamics and energy transfer.

Students from Honors and AP Chemistry classes closed out the year with a hands-on hydrogen rocket lab on Davis Field on Monday and Tuesday. Some classes also conducted an instant ice cream experiment, enjoying their homemade desserts while launching their rockets. 

In the hydrogen rocket lab, students filled 2-liter plastic bottles with hydrogen and oxygen gas using the water displacement method. The students reacted calcium metal with water to create the hydrogen gas, and they decomposed hydrogen peroxide with a potassium iodide catalyst to produce oxygen gas. When the students sparked their bottles with the press of a button, the reaction produced large amounts of water vapor due to the high temperature. The bottles either exploded to the side from internal pressure or shot up into the air, with some even reaching twenty feet in height.

Chemistry teacher Andrew Irvine arranges the piezo lighter at the mouth of the bottle filled with hydrogen gas. The spark combusted the hydrogen, propelling the rocket dozens of feet into the air.

The hydrogen rocket lab provided students with a hands-on opportunity to apply knowledge gained over the course of the year, whether that be through filling the bottles with gas or calculating the necessary amounts of water for the reaction. Compared to typical chemistry labs, the hydrogen rocket lab stood out by allowing students to witness the principles of combustion and gas behavior in a more dramatic way. 

“I liked that this lab was different from anything we’ve ever done before,” Honors Chemistry student MacEnzie Blue (10) said.

Many students brought plastic soda bottles for the experiment, but Honors Chemistry student Christy Ma (10) brought an olive oil bottle, which produced a different, unique result.

“Because [my bottle] wasn’t a soda bottle and the material wasn’t the same, it exploded through the bottom and caught on fire, which was really cool,” Christy said. “It was fun getting to see all the bottles fly off really far.”

AP Chemistry student Disha Gupta (10) sets up her hydrogen rocket lab on Davis field. Many types of plastic bottles were used in this experiment, including soda bottles and milk jugs.

AP Chemistry students then applied their knowledge of thermodynamics to create instant ice cream. They added flavored condensed milk to a small bag and then put the small bag inside a larger ziploc bag with ice cubes. Salt, added to the larger bag, lowered the melting point of the ice, catalyzing a change in physical state for the milk inside the inner bag. To allow the milk to freeze more quickly, the students shook the bags of ice and tossed them back and forth in fun games of catch. 

“This lab uses colligative properties, which is part of the textbook but has been pulled out of the AP exam for time reasons,” Brown said. “We’re out here on the field anyways, so we fit the lab in because it’s a nice way to look forward to summer.”

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About the Contributors
Ashley Mo
Ashley Mo, Reporter
Ashley Mo (10) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is her second year on staff. This year, Ashley hopes to write about stories both within and outside of the Harker community, form friendships on the journalism team and learn more about global news events. In her free time, she enjoys playing golf and listening to music.
Kairui Sun
Kairui Sun, Reporter
Kairui Sun (10) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is his second year on staff. This year, Kairui wishes to understand the Harker community better by writing a variety of articles. In his free time, he likes to play piano and volleyball.

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