A Nobel prize-winning chemist will come to Penn State today to lead a workshop with up to 250 children from Pennsylvania elementary schools.
Sir Harold Kroto will teach students from the Philipsburg-Osceola Area and Harrisburg School Districts about the C60 — carbon — molecule at the workshop from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the HUB-Robeson Center’s Heritage Hall, Penn State CarbonEARTH conference organizer Seth Wilberding said. The students will also build models of the molecule, Wilberding said.
Kroto and two other scientists won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996 for their discovery of C60.
The closed workshop is sponsored by Penn State CarbonEARTH, which is also hosting a conference from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in 101 Thomas that’s free and open to the public, Wilberding said.
Kroto has gone all over the world doing the workshops, Wilberding said.
“He’s very interested in science education, and this is a wonderful opportunity for elementary and junior high kids to learn directly from a Nobel laureate,” Wilberding said.
Education must teach young people how they can decide if what they are told is true, Kroto said in an email. The teaching of evidence-based assessment is “an intellectual integrity issue,” Kroto said.
Penn State’s CarbonEarth program connects graduate students in Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering fields with elementary and junior high school science teachers, Wilberding said. The graduate fellows work with teachers and teach in their classrooms usually once a week and sometimes twice a week, he said.
The graduate fellows try to “inject more current science into the classroom,” said Renee Diehl, Penn State professor of physics and CarbonEARTH lead principal investigator. Students get exposed to real scientists in the classroom, and the graduate students learn to communicate more effectively with a broader audience, Diehl said.
C60 is the third well-defined form of carbon, which also takes the form of graphite and diamond, Kroto said. The openly curious uncover major breakthroughs that are often overlooked by those who are more focused, he said.
Scientists made the original discovery of C60 serendipitously during lab experiments designed to simulate the atmospheric conditions in cool red giant carbon stars — providing compelling support that it existed in space, Kroto said.
“This is yet another example of the remarkable way in which the fascination with space has catalyzed fundamental breakthroughs in general science with major implications for innovative technological applications on Earth,” Kroto said.