Science-is-Fun-BF

BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo

"Once upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakashiri" wowed audiences once again over the past weekend.

The annual chemistry lecture given by University of Wisconsin chemistry professor Bassam Shakashiri celebrated its 37th year and featured glowing liquids, intense chemical explosions and bangs loud enough to excite the audience.

Shakashiri, a UW chemistry professor, presents the lectures free of charge and said his favorite part of the demonstrations is the audience reaction.

"I particularly enjoy watching the expressions on people's faces," Shakashiri said. "I can tell they're having fun and enjoying the experience."

This year's demonstration included special guests Santa Claus and a safety goggle-wearing Bucky Badger, who has also made an appearance in each of the 37 years.

The lecture, which drew a large number of children, parents and grandparents, is designed to generate excitement about science and chemistry, Shakashiri added. He added the lecture took about a month of planning.

Sheri Hansen of Verona said she brought her 3- and 5-year-olds to the show because she enjoyed it in the past when she attended.

"I saw Dr. Shakashiri's lecture about 10 years ago as a student and was really impressed," Hansen said. "I just had to bring my kids because I knew they'd love it."

Hansen's children said they enjoyed the program, especially when Santa made an appearance and helped Shakashiri make silver Christmas ornaments.

One special guest was Akornefa Akyea, a junior at Verona High School who assisted Shakashiri with some balloon demonstrations and also performed a flute solo for the audience.

In honor of the 37th lecture, rubidium, which has an atomic number of 37, was used in several reactions during the program. The program started incorporating elements with corresponding lecture numbers on its 25th anniversary — when Shakashiri used manganese.

Mary Anders of Madison said she watched the lecture on television last year, and this year she decided to bring her 7-year-old grandson.

"We were flipping through the channels last year around Christmas and saw Bucky on TV, so we kept watching and were thoroughly entertained," Anders said. "I knew I had to come this year."

Anders added she thinks Shakashiri is incredibly generous for donating his time to spread his knowledge of science and make learning fun for kids.

The annual lecture of "Once upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakashiri" airs on PBS across the nation throughout the year. This year's lecture will be airing on Wisconsin Public Television on Dec. 22 at 4:30 p.m., Dec. 24 at 8 a.m. and Christmas Day at 10 a.m.