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Science comes to life

Steve Herrlinger is no magician. But he holds his audience in thrall, as if he were. A man of science, he volunteers to do experiments in schools to pique childrens’ interest in science – the commonly dreaded discipline.

On Monday morning, Herrlinger did a science show to entertain students in the indoor basketball court/auditorium at Ready Springs School in Penn Valley. His little audience gasped and giggled as Herrlinger performed his myriad experiments, like dipping a fresh rose in a jar of liquid nitrogen and freezing it till it got brittle, or when he smashed a liquid nitrogen-dipped banana into pieces with a hammer. Herrlinger also went around pouring the liquid on the wooden floor of the basketball court, demonstrating how it evaporated at once without wetting the surface. And all the while the students watched him as intently as they would an animated movie.

“I guess my message to the kids is that science isn’t as scary as it looks; it can be a lot of fun,” Herrlinger said. “If you study it in school, there are a lot of opportunities and you can do a lot of cool things.”



Herrlinger is an aeronautical engineer and chemist who works for Lockheed Martin, an aerospace manufacturer and the world’s largest defense contractor. He has two bachelor’s degrees, in chemistry and aeronautical engineering, and two master’s degrees in aeronautical science and engineering management.

“When I was in college, I used to do this (science shows),” Herrlinger said.




“I was the president of the chemistry club, and one of the things I liked doing was going to different schools and showing them stuff to get the kids interested in science. I knew this kind of demonstration connected with kids. I wanted to reach out to kids who weren’t aware of science or thought science was difficult and boring.”

Judging from the attention he got from the students at Ready Springs, it seemed Herrlinger was successful in awakening their interests in science.

“The kids loved it and were very quiet when it came time for … the instruction,” said Principal Mike Distefano. “Once the noise part, the fun part happened, they were really enthralled, but they were really into it. We had kindergartners through fifth graders and to have them pay attention for 40 minutes is a long time, especially the young ones showed they were very interested.”

Joanna Ten Eyck, a fifth grader, loved the show.

“I thought it was awesome,” she said. “I liked the part where he made the rose freeze.”

Ten Eyck said the demonstration had changed her perception about science.

“It’s a lot funnier now that I’ve seen the way he’s done it,” she said.

Jennifer Mariani, another fifth grader, felt the same way.

“It was kind of boring when we were reading it in the book,” she said.

“But now I can look at it in a different way. It’s fun now instead of just boring. You can do fun things in science.”

Herrlinger gave two shows at Ready Springs School on Monday morning and another demonstration at Nevada Union High School in the afternoon.

“Any principal is happy to have a science show,” he said. “This is ‘gee-whiz’ stuff.”

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To contact staff writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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