A fire tornado! Tesla coils playing music! Exploding microwaves! That’s the X-Labs at the University of South Florida, a student initiative to promote science and engineering.
Take stage production, add in social media skills, and apply that to science. That’s what the X-Labs delivered at the USF’s 41st Engineering EXPO last weekend. I went to the Expo with my ten-year old son, and we had a blast seeing all the great projects geared towards kids and adults alike. The X-Labs show was our grand finale.
Smoke rings and candy liberally doused the audience even before the event began, all part of getting the audience geared up. Then the show started, with a robot playing drums, music and fire mixed together to show sound waves, and spinning chicken wire to create a flaming spiral. That one was entrancing! The photo above doesn’t do it justice. It was like the best souped-up campfire ever.
Then came the video of the thermite explosion – yes, just a video, not a live demonstration.
And finally the music-playing Tesla coils. Followed afterwards by a Q & A about each of the demonstrations, which really got into the science and engineering behind each project. It was definitely one of the most innovative science communication projects I’ve seen. Makes a blog seem all fuddy-duddy. Obviously my ten-year-old loved it!
The Mario video doesn’t quite do justice to the final live demonstration, where they had two coils in action!
But you can see the two of them in action, and get a sense of the show itself, in this video of the 2012 X-Labs Engineering Expo production.
Link to USF X-Labs webpage