Clay County Fair and ILCC break World Record

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Six professors from ILCC put on their white coats to help push past Norway's record of 749 science experiment participants and get the fair into the Guinness Book.
In one demonstration during the world record attempt at the Clay County Fair Saturday morning, Iowa Lakes Community College professors mixed potassium iodide and hydrogen peroxide to create oxygen. When combined with detergent, oxygen bubbles are formed, creating a foam that looks like "elephant toothpaste." (Photos by Kate Padilla)

In order to beat the Guinness World Record for Largest Science Experiment, Iowa Lakes Community College and the Clay County Fair had to get at least 750 people in the Grandstand and participating in a half-hour science lesson and experiment. The previous record was set in Oslo, Norway with 749 students in a junior high in November 2012.

The official number that Iowa Lakes Writing, Marketing and Media Assistant Trish Morfitt will be sending into the Guinness World Records is 771. When the paperwork and records are submitted and, Morfitt anticipates, accepted, ILCC and the Clay County Fair will hold the world record.

"For the most part, everything went very well," Morfitt said. "We were able to stick to what we had intended on doing, and it went off without a hitch."

Kids and adults alike had a chance at the world record attempt to experiment with the powers of oxidation and kinetic energy.

Morfitt noted guidelines for the world record attempt included a lesson lasting at least 30 minutes and two science experiments. In addition, cameras needed to capture a full shot of the crowd, the action on stage, action from all entrances and certain photographs. The lesson was timed at just over 32 minutes.

Six professors for Iowa Lakes Community College demonstrated the scientific principles on stage and directed the audience through the example it performed in the Grandstand seats.

The first experiment, according to Mark Zabawa, associate professor of chemistry and biology at ILLC's Emmetsburg campus, included mixing potassium iodide and hydrogen peroxide with detergent to create a foam resembling "elephant toothpaste."

"It's awesome," Zabawa said. "Such a good day. All the science instructors pitched in, it was a huge undertaking."

The second experiment included using leaf blowers to demonstrate kinetic energy.

"We've chosen to focus on the 'power of air' because Iowa Lakes is known for their wind energy program," said Kari Webb, regional STEM hub programmer for ILCC. "Our major emphasis is to spread the word that science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the components of STEM, are fun and accessible."

In the Grandstand seats, participants recreated the experiments using pop rocks and water in a petri dish to demonstrate the oxidation created in the "elephant toothpaste" experiment, and a ping pong ball and a straw to demonstrate kinetic energy.

Shallie Walders, a kindergarten student at Graettinger-Terril, noted she was excited to learn, as well as hear the entertainment and work with the bubbles.

"She really likes science and math," Jolene Rogers, who accompanied Walders, said.

"It's kind of a cool thing," Heather Howard, a fifth grader at Lincoln Elementary, said. "I'm excited about breaking the world record."

"This is a pretty special and unique thing," said Rebecca Peters, marketing manager for the Clay County Fair. "It's another thing to hang our hat on, and another unique part of what makes us the world's greatest county fair."

Planning for the world record attempt began about a year ago, at a meeting Morfitt participated in.

"We were originally going to do this attempt at last year's fair," she said. "We decided to wait and worked on it the whole year, intermittently, to get it together."

After the paperwork and records are submitted, Morfitt said, results can take up to six weeks to learn if the world record attempt was accepted.

"It's hurry up and wait," she said. "We're confident we followed the instructions they provided us, and we had enough people. Though we won't know for sure until the results come back, we're fairly confident we have in fact set the world record."

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