Some 350 kids between the ages of 8 and 16 learned Thursday why they were lucky to be related to Northwestern University faculty and staff.

They were guests at the university’s annual Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day, where they were treated to workshops in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and other fields.

One of the workshops, labeled “Things That Hover,” featured the university’s distinguished senior lecturer in physics and technology, Dr. Arthur Schmidt, tell how they could amuse and mystify their friends with simple experiments that involved objects floating in air.

Floating a yellow ping pong ball above an air hose.

“On Myth Busters, they tell you not to try this at home, but at Northwestern we say it’s okay to do these things at home,” Dr. Schmidt told his young audience.

Then he proceeded to employ static electricity and wind power to float balloons above a hair dryer, teepee a house using a leaf blower, and blow out a candle from 20 feet away with a “vortex generator” made out of a plastic garbage container.

How to teepee a house with a leaf blower.

As the hourlong session ended, he brought his students into the hallway at the Technological Institute on Sheridan Road to enable them to engage in a battle of small hovercraft scooting across the floor.

The battle of the hovercraft.

In another room in the giant tech center, chemists Amy Serjeant, Charlotte Stern, and Saman Shafaie were demonstrating how light and xray radiation are used to determine the structure and composition of compounds.

Using light, participants could see what metals are in a sample, and using atomic emission spectrometry, they could measure metal concentrations.

Using an improvised “vortex generator” to extinguish a candle from across the room.

Their session had the intriguing title, “Electrocute a Pickle.”

Other sessions, on prosthetics and collaborative dance, were offered at the university’s Chicago campus.

Originally established by the Ms. Foundation and now administered by the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day Foundation, the day was designed to expose pre-teens and teens to a variety of careers and the importance of education in reaching career goals.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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