Via the Christian Science Monitor comes an article about the “Iron Science Teacher:”

Some of the best scientific experiments are the simplest. Think of Galileo dropping lead balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or Archimedes working out the principle of specific gravity while lounging in his bathtub.

The noble tradition lives on with Linda Paparella, a sixth-grade science teacher from Harlem’s Opportunity Charter School in New York City. Ms. Paparella works frantically over a collection of orange halves, wires, metal plates, and a stopwatch. Next to Paparella, three other young teachers – Woody Smith, Chris Baker, and Saber Khan – fuss with their own bizarre concoction involving a watermelon, lemon cake batter, and an ammeter (a device that measures electric current). These four teachers, along with four others, are competing in front of an audience for the coveted title of “Iron Science Teacher.” The teachers are given everyday objects and asked to create a science activity for students – in about 10 minutes.

They describe how a teacher powers a stopwatch using a few pieces of metal and fruit, and another bakes a cake in a watermelon, but my favorite was one it seems the audience wasn’t too dazzled by:

The next contestant, James Arce, is from Arkansas. With the assistance of audience members Maggie and Nadine, he shows how to extract DNA from plant cells (squished strawberries) and animal cells (Maggie’s spit) using salt, rubbing alcohol, detergent, and a couple of test tubes. With a Dr. Frankenstein flourish, Mr. Arce finishes by pretending to mix Maggie’s DNA with the strawberries. He pulls out a plastic doll with strawberries replacing its hands and face.

“My very own strawberry blonde!” Arce says. Eyeing his creepy creation, he adds, “Maybe I’ll put her up for adoption.”

C’mon…cool *and* witty! Why this one didn’t win is totally beyond me.

Anyway, the competitions are all webcast live, and the next one is this Saturday at noon PST. Find out more at the Exploratorium homepage.


  1. #1 David Ng
    July 22, 2006

    Cool. Also sounds like something I’d enjoy. My lab has a few similar projects going on, such as this, and currently, this gem of a DIY.

    By the way, if you’re into this stuff, the mother of all DIY sites (and one with cultish rank among the engineering set) is MAKE magazine.