Department of Chemistry
illusion of burning money

Using sensory impact, we hope students will learn that:

  • chemistry, unlike magic, is comprehensible
  • they already comprehend some of it
  • chemistry is a human activity, one that real people love and find exciting
  • chemistry and chemicals, like any other kind of knowledge and technology, are safe and beneficial when used carefully and intelligently

Most of all, we hope students will remember the excitement and surprise they feel during our demonstrations.

elephant toothpaste

As audience members enter the room, they see a long row of tables, covered in white paper and accented by a Chemistry Road Show banner. On the tables are chemical glassware and apparatus. One or two demonstrators finish their preparations, arranging balloons and adjusting equipment. The demonstrators, who begin by talking for a few moments about the show, hold what seem to be chemistry books. As they talk, the books in their hands suddenly seem to burst into flames!The Chemistry Road Show has begun.

During the rest of the show, audience members see chemical wonders that turn ordinary objects and events into exciting learning experiences. They see a reaction that changes color from clear, to brown, to purple and then clear again, in a repeating cycle; a genie that emerges from a bottle; iron that burns as brightly as the sun; and a pinch of dry powder that instantly solidifies a cup full of water.

Their eyes are dazzled by colorful reactions and polymers growing before their eyes; their minds are stretched as the demonstrators explain the wonders they see. Without leaving their seats the audience members take part in experiments, make observations and test hypotheses, and so learn that they know more about science than they may ever have guessed. Finally, when the show is finished, the demonstrators answer questions from the audience.

This is just a sampling of the remarkable demonstrations we include in the Road Show. In each show we strive to entertain and excite audience members with sensory impact while teaching them that chemicals and chemistry are not only vital to our lives, but also can be fascinating and fun.

One experiment that can be safely performed at home is making your own Red Cabbage pH Indicator.


Dr. John L. Hogg was one of the primary developers and promoters of the Chemistry Road Show. He passed away on January 19, 2008, but continues to be an inspiration.