Wahoo Wizards: A University of Virginia Classroom Outreach Story

This post is contributed by Adam Christian, UVA AIChE Student Chapter vice president of service, and Wahoo Wizards co-directors Cynthia Zahrah and James Crosby

Wahoo Wizards is a community outreach program that was started eleven years ago and is supported by the AIChE Student Chapter at the University of Virginia. Named after the unofficial mascot of the university, this program aims to immerse K-6 students in the Charlottesville, VA, community in science and engineering.

Every other Friday afternoon, outfitted with lab coats and goggles, a group of university students travels to local elementary schools. It's a great feeling, walking through elementary schools and having students from past years recognize you and be excited to see you. That's how you know you've made an impact on the students.

The program rotates the students among different demonstrations. The demonstrations include lessons on freezing and melting points using liquid nitrogen, on solids and liquids using "ooblick" (a mixture of cornstarch and water), and on hydrophobic versus hydrophilic properties using hydrophobic sand. Going to a Wahoo Wizards event is exciting. It is all of the great experiments you saw on Bill Nye the Science Guy brought to life, and the children really enjoy it.

Depending on who you ask, everyone has a favorite experiment. Some prefer freezing everything from celery to flowers in liquid nitrogen and letting the students smash the items. Others prefer creating slimy ooblick that the children take home to share with their parents and siblings, while some never grow out of playing with sand.

The program coordinates with the teachers and aims to use these demonstrations to supplement the material the students are learning in class in a way that shows students that science can be exciting and gives them the opportunity to experiment themselves.

Naturally, the students are curious in the slimy, the unusual, and the bizarre. Wahoo Wizards gives the students an educational outlet for their curiosity, targeting the future engineers and scientists of America at an early age.

You can learn more about the Wahoo Wizards here.

Are you involved in an outreach program?