Saturday, October 10, 2009

Leif's Giant Chlorophyll Molecule - Highland Park, Illinois - Early 1989

I looked and looked for a photo of the giant chlorophyll molecule Leif built in the eighth grade and had given up. I was sure I would have taken a photo of it, but I couldn't find it. Then, voila! I found it in an envelope.

I've written before about this project. When Leif was in the eighth grade at Northwood Junior High in Highland Park, Illoinois, one of his science assignments was to build a model of a molecule. The other students picked simple molecules but Leif was inspired. He determined to make chlorophyll, a very complex molecule with a large number of atoms of oxygen, nitrogen, magnesium, carbon and hydrogen. The chemical formula is C62H70MgN4O5, according to what is on Leif's model.

He designed it using styrofoam balls which he painted to color-code the atoms, using acrylic paint. Then he put the whole thing together with toothpicks and glue, in one sitting, refusing to even stop to eat. As I recall, it took him about five hours.

When it was all done, there was no way it could be transported to school. It was impossible to pick it up, and it was six feet long. I finally found a large carton that a filing cabinet had come in. We cut it open and used two panels of it for a backing which the two of us slid underneath the molecule. Then we fastened it to the backing and added the labels.

The next morning we loaded it into the back bed of our Maxima station wagon and I took him and the molecule to school. The kids were all still outside as the bell that allowed them to enter hadn't rung yet. The amazement on their faces when the two of us carried this giant molecule in was a delight to see.

Leif's science teacher was so impressed that she asked to keep the molecule and hung it on the wall. It was also in the eighth grade that he did the science fair project on gear ratio effect on battery life and speed with a radio controlled model car, a project that took him all the way to the state science fair.

He had such a terrific mind for science and showed such promise, it's too bad he didn't become a scientist. It was the math that deterred him.

This photo of Leif was taken at about the time he constructed the molecule, in early 1989.

No comments:

Post a Comment