Joey Seward, left, and Jaden Smith react as "elephant toothpaste" is made.

USF Sarasota-Manatee welcomes YMCA Achievers

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: August 01, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 01, 2018) – Aspiring scientist Joey Seward, 12, liked the dry ice, relishing the eerie fog, while his sister, Aaliyah, 11, preferred “funny putty” for its pliability.

“I like squishy stuff,” she said, beaming.

USF Sarasota-Manatee welcomes YMCA Achievers

Aaliyah Seward tests the pliability of “funny putty.”

At the USFSM-YMCA Science Day on Wednesday, youngsters from the Sarasota YMCA’s Achievers program learned about science while engaging in fun experiments with USFSM students and faculty.

The annual event at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s teaching laboratories at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota had the youngsters, ages 9 through 17, peering through microscopes at tiny sea life and engaging in experiments aimed at encouraging interest in science.

“What I like about it is that it exposes them to different careers,” said Jone Williams, director of the Achievers Program. “Most of these kids haven’t seen this kind of (lab) equipment and this event gives them the chance to learn what science is all about.”

Aided by a dozen USFSM biology students and recent graduates, organic chemistry instructor Dr. Edie Banner presided over the experiments, among them an exercise combing dry ice and orange peel to extract limonene, used in furniture polish, and another that relied on household items and food coloring to make “funny putty,” which the youngsters stowed in baggies to take home.

USF Sarasota-Manatee welcomes YMCA Achievers

Jaden Smith watches elephant toothpaste shoot upward.

But none was more impressive than the “elephant toothpaste” experiment, which combined dish soap, yeast, water, hydrogen peroxide and food coloring. The mixture produced an instant chemical reaction that, with the help of a funnel, resulted in a thick, toothpaste-like bead of soapy foam. The youths were in awe.

“It was really cool when it came out the top, and you could play with the foam,” Bella Smith, 9, said smiling. She added, “We need glitter in this.”

In the biology lab next door, students gazed through microscopes at miniscule sea life from Sarasota Bay. While examining the creatures, they referenced notecards with illustrations to help identify the species on the slides.

Anastasia Samedi, 13, who wants to become a marine biologist, found the exercise inspiring.

“I like that you look through here and see something different every time,” she said.

Anastasia Samedi

Anastasia Samedi views microscopic sea creatures.

The youngsters spent about three hours at the labs. Dr. Banner said she looks forward to the annual summer event, which entered its fourth year on Wednesday.

“It’s just amazing,” she said. “I love inspiring young minds, and I love that they are curious about what you have to show them,” she said. “It’s never too early to engage young people in science. I hope this carries through to their high school and college years.”

To learn more about USFSM’s College of Science & Mathematics, visit

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