Science makes stop in Portales

By Mike Linn

The electrostatic energy at Lindsey Middle School was a “shocking” treat of hair-raising proportions, consuming a giggling, riled-up bunch of sixth graders on Thursday afternoon.
Patsy Neely’s science class was one of many taking part in the exploration show courtesy of the Up ’N’ Atom Mobile’s traveling display of chemical, electrical and mechanical energy.
“Once children get into middle and high school they get more timid about science,” show coordinator Chelsea Buffington said. “It’s important to show the children that they can have fun with science, it keeps their interest going.”
Buffington travels throughout New Mexico, particularly the southwest region, representing the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque.
And her program at Lindsey tested student bravery in more ways than one.
With a little enticement, male and female students even held hands with each other during an experiment proving how energy can travel through human connections.
“It won’t kill you two to hold each others hands,” Neely said to David Lucero and Amber McCasland, students in her science class.
Lucero placed one hand on a copper plate, McCasland put one on an aluminum plate and the two squeezed each other’s free hand and watched the energy meter jump like a nervous twitch on a mangy mut.
But the real excitement came at the end of class when Buffington hooked up the electrostatic generator, also referred to as a Van De Graff.
At first students were wary to touch the statically charged ball of energy, but when they realized they could shock their classmates that air of timidity faded quickly.
“This is what lightning looks like,” Buffington said about the static darting off the Van De Graff.
A few students placed both hands on the generator as others laughed at the sight of classmates’ north-bound hair, Billy Idol style.
“When the children have fun with science that’s good,” Buffington said. “There’s so many opportunities in this state, because it’s amazing how much science and math make up everything that goes on in this state.”