Proving that science has everyday applications and isn’t some magical mystery that happens in a laboratory, Ace Hardware’s Shawn Bjorback conducts monthly demonstrations and experiments using everyday items.
“It’s fun to invent stuff and make it entertaining as well as educational,” said Bjorback, who’s offering free presentations at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, in the Ace Hardware in the Sehome Village Shopping Center near Samish Way and Bill McDonald Parkway.
“We’ll be making a programmable mechanical car,” he said. “It should be pretty cool.”
For a little over a year, Bjorback has been prowling the store shelves to create such items as a glowing “Frankenpickle” that teaches how a simple electrical circuit works.
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“I plug it into the wall and the pickle just lights up. It’s like a flashlight, the circuit completes,” he said.
He’s also shown how to make a battery from a potato and create “silly slime” and crystals from super-saturated sodium acetate solution — which he said is the same exothermic reaction that makes hand warmers or a first-aid hot pack work.
“It’s important that we get them intrigued and working with their families” to inspire a lifelong interest in science, said Bjorback, who just finished his bachelor of science degree in math at Western Washington University. He’s taking a break from school but wants to go for master’s degree and possibly teach. He grew up in Marysville and attended Everett Community College.
Bjorback is striving to encompass much more STEM disciplines (science-technology-engineering-math) in addition to chemistry and physics into his lesson plans, he said.
For his presentations, he dresses in a white lab coat and bow ties, a kind of small-town Bill Nye the Science Guy.
“I try to imitate the look of a ’50s math teacher,” he said.
He started offering monthly demonstrations in late 2013, and “it kind of just took off. from the start, they gave me the freedom to pick stuff off the shelves,” he said
“I try to have something you don’t see every day. We usually try to get something out of the ordinary.”
He said hears the lesson plans to different ages, from very small to older, and tries to include some points to keep the parents engaged, too. Presnetations show participants how to conduct the experiment and how to find the materials, which usually are inexpensive.
“We’ve been getting a pretty good turnout. It’s been really engaging for all ages,” Bjorback said. “One cool thing was I had them hide a magnet in their hand and I just used my compass to find the magnetic field.”