Thrust or Bust fails to claim Science Centre Showdown bragging rights
Science North may not have been crowned the winner in Daily Planet's Science Centre Showdown, but that doesn't mean they didn't have a “beary” good time participating.
Science North's Team Gastronauts combined flames, smoke and even some candy in an experiment “so sweet, it could propel you into space,” said Daily Planet's co-host Dan Riskin on March 12.
That's when Daily Planet aired the first part of the what he called the “Cross-Canada bonanza of nerdy inventiveness” that is the Science Centre Showdown, featuring Science North's Thrust or Bust experiment.
Staff scientist and team leader Simon McMillan said the Gastronauts took one of Science North's favourite experiments and conducted it on a much larger scale.
“One of our favourite experiments, what we call the (politically incorrect) Gummy Bear Torture Chamber, is where we heat up potassium chlorate into its liquid form, and then add a gummy bear,” McMillan said.
“When you mix them, it makes a pretty violent flame that burns for quite a while until the gummy bear is consumed. It makes a nice big flame. We do this experiment in our Discovery Theatre every now and again, so we took it and scaled it up.”
Typically, blue coats conducting the experiment use regular-sized gummy bears in the Discovery Theatre. For the Science Centre Showdown, they called in the big guns — a five-pound gummy bear.
“And, because it was Chris Hadfield — commander of the International Space Station — who was announcing the winner, we figured we would form the experiment around designing a jet engine, and whether we could get into space using gummy bears,” McMillan said.
The Gastronauts were given about a month to prepare. In testing the experiment, the scientists used a tin cup, similar to what you would use when you're camping, and put a handful of Gummy bear in it to see how it would work.
“It worked really well; it actually melted the coffee cup,” McMillan said. “Then we ordered the five-pound gummy bears, put together the container (with help from Nordic Energy Systems) and we had a mock Canadarm to lower the gummy bear into the container.”
Alan Nursall, former science director at Science North and current host of The Alan Nursall Experience on Daily Planet, brought a camera crew to Science North on Feb. 22 to film the experiment. The blue coats even let Nursall lower the gummy bear into the potassium chlorate using the Canadarm.
Science North's experiment was aired March 12. The public was given just 12 hours to vote for their favourite experiment once it aired. Using social media, the public ranked individual experiments on a range of one to five — five being the best mark.
The experiment with the highest average score was deemed the winner.
Discovery Planet also used a panel of celebrity judges in scoring the experiments, McMillan said.
“Of course, we were a little disappointed (that we didn't win), but getting the exposure, doing the experiment and competing against our colleagues from across Canada is really what matters the most.
We had a good experiment, we had fun, and we'd certainly do it again.”
Seven science centres competed in the challenge this year. It was the Saskatchewan Science Centre in Regina, Sask., that claimed bragging rights, walking away with the spray-painted Golden Brain.
The results were announced by Hadfield from space on March 15.