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June 22nd, 2011

June 13, 2011 (My day at UMass Amherst)

It was so much fun. I got up early since we had to be there at around eight-thirty, and ate breakfast. My mum and I then carpooled with Mr. Metzner to UMass Amherst. At the parking lot we were given a warm welcome by science writer Janet Lathrop  & her colleague who presented both of us with t-shirts. Then we went inside and I met the scientists: Ashley Franks, and Derek Lovely. They showed me a presentation on what they do in the lab, and told me that we would be doing some of the experiments that day. They then gave me some more t-shirts, the Kids Science Challenge winner’s certificate, and a notebook to record data in.

Then the fun experiments began. Ashley led me to a lab where his one of his colleaguesRoberto showed me microbes that breathe in Uranium like we breathe in oxygen. Then he took a test tube that was just plain Uranium (test tube 1) and a test tube that had the microbes with the Uranium (test tube 2) in it and put them in UV light. We had to wear special equipment since UV light can make you go blind. In the UV light test tube 1 lit up bright neon yellow, and test tube 2 lit up as a peach color. Roberto told me that if we every needed to cleanse water that had been contaminated with Uranium we could use these microbes.

Then we headed down a few stairs to meet Jessica(another scientist in the lab) there I got to fill my own test tube with microbes by injecting needles filled with them.  Then carefully carrying my test tube we walked to the oven which looked more like a mini fridge than a oven. I had to wear special gloves(oven mitts) since it was about 200 degrees in there. I put my test tube amongst the many that already lay there. The point of the experiment was to demonstrate how fast the microbes multiply under high temperatures – the reason behind which is unknown - She promised that she would send me pictures of it after it starts growing.

Then it was break and we went back the place where I first met the scientists. There was coffee, tea, and pink lemonade. Plus cookies and fruit. There was also a reporter who interviewed  me (

Then it was time to make a microbial fuel cell kit with Ashley Franks. We first went into this sealed chamber to see some of the ones that he had made. And he showed me one that has been powering a little light for a year! Then it was time to make one. He showed me that we were going to make the easiest one: a one from kit. We opened up the kit to find a plastic container, a chip, wires a l.e.d. light etc. Ashley had already gotten fresh mud from a local pond, and was telling me that the more that the mud stinks the more better it will work. Then I took handfuls of rotten-egg-smelling mud and put it in the plastic container. Then on top of that goes a black foam piece that had a wire connected to it. Then we put more mud and another piece of foam with a red wire. We poured some water on top to make sure that the mud doesn’t dry out. Then we took the two wires and pulled them through the two holes on the top and attached them to the little chip then we put the light on the chip, and in a few weeks the light will start flickering. Ashley even gave me my own to take home to CA and send him the results to compare which mud is better.

After we headed down to the cafeteria where we had an amazing lunch. I did not know that university cafeterias served exotic food like pad thai noodles – And they even had a waffle maker where u could make one from scratch!

Then began my fun afternoon schedule. My first stop was Professor Susan Leschine.  She talked to me about green biofuels she has made. She showed me the anaerobic where they keep all tests that that they need to be conducted in oxygen deprived conditions. Then she got a slide with microbes on it and put it under a microscope so we could see these microbes move they can move as much a the average person can run in proportion to their size. It doesn’t look like they are moving but you can see little squiggles. Then we talked about science and my idea.

Next we went to Professor Duncan Irschick who studies reptile motion. He showed us lizards, geckos, a bearded dragon, and a turtle.  We also tried an experiment. We put a lizard on a ramp tilted upward to see if it would run but it didn’t. Then we tried a gecko because we thought that might stick better since its feet can stick upside down. It did run up, except at the end it jumped in to the camera, and when Duncan tried to catch it, it fell into the tank with the turtle and got mad since it hates water.

Lastly I went to meet Peg Riley. She showed me her three mascots: Charles Darwin the bearded dragon, Monty the python, and Doc the parrot. She and her use the three fun animals as props when they visit local school and teach young kids about science. They said they hope to extend this program to CA and that maybe I can help out. They gave me magnets, pins, another t-shirt, and pens. Then they showed me polymers, and when I said that I don’t have them they gave me a almost full pack. Plus a pack of cards with facts on the side.

After all that fun we went back to the hotel changed and went out for dinner with my family, Mr. Metzner  and a number of the members of the UMass faculty to a great place called Fresh Side. After a nice meal and some yummy ice cream we returned to the hotel – But I still had too much energy so my sister and I decided to head to the pool where we swam and played  until Midnight  -  A great way to end an amazing day.

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