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Westminster Weekend: Alum gather virtually for science experiments at home

Participants at the “Science at Home with Robyn Hyde” event completed experiments that demonstrated the solubility in food coloring. As participants poured water over M&Ms, the color dye separated from the candy created a swirled effect. (Photo Courtesy: Dalton Charboneau)

Robyn Hyde, chemistry professor at Westminster College, led the virtual event “Science at Home” Thursday as part of Westminster Weekend-ish — a weeklong celebration that allows alumni to reconnect with peers and faculty. 

Before the event began the participants were given a specific list of items to collect from around their home for the experiment: M&Ms, a small dish, a spoon, a spatula, shaving cream, food coloring, white paper, one cup of room temperature water and foil. 

Hyde kicked off the night by explaining solubility — specifically solubility in water — before leading the group through exercises to test understanding.

Hyde walked participants through their first experiment, which explored the solubility of food coloring. To start, everyone grabbed a plate and added M&Ms around the border. Then, participants started adding water to the middle of the plate until the base was just barely covered. 

After a few minutes the participants started to notice the food coloring bleeding off the M&Ms and into the water. 

“What you see happening is that we’re getting the different colors to come off,” Hyde said. “So there’s a few interesting science things that are happening here: All of the colors have their own segments, all the colors are staying within their own color segments.” 

Hyde explained this happens because food colorings have different chemical properties, which cause them to separate and stay in their own sections along the plate. 

Next, Hyde moved on to an at-home experiment which involved the shaving cream, food coloring, a spoon and a few pieces of paper. 

The participants started off with a piece of paper and added about a baseball-sized amount of shaving cream. Next the participants smoothed out the shaving cream into a thin layer and started adding dots of different colored food coloring.

Once the food coloring was added, the participants lightly mixed the shaving cream and food coloring together creating swirls. Participants then added a second piece of blank paper over the top of the shaving cream and lightly pressed down. 

Upon removing the top piece of paper, the participants were then able to see a marbling effect on the previously blank sheet of paper. 

Hyde told participants this marbling effect was due to the food coloring and the shaving cream not mixing in completely because the components don’t interact.

The “Science at Home” event and the entirety of the weeklong Westminster Weekend-ish celebration was conducted through the Westminster Alumni Office. Events will continue throughout the week and The Forum will provide coverage on the most up-to-date details. 


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Mekenzie Deneault is very outgoing, positive and full of energy. Mekenzie is both the storm and the calm afterwards. She is also very picky in all regards toward food -- a true food critic.

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