Illuminating Chanukah through Science

Written by Lea Scheffer on . Posted in Features

High school students at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore received some special illumination over Chanukah during classroom visits by Dr. Dan Scheffer and Dr. Philip Keehn.

Keehn, a Brandeis University professor emeritus and Beth Tfiloh grandfather, facilitated experiments for the  10th grade Honors Chemistry class related to their studies of ions and the characteristics of the various elements based on their locations on the periodic table. The students especially enjoyed a colorful Chanukah fire display, which demonstrated the identity of various elements using a color-specific flame protocol. The students also learned that adding glycerin to potassium permanganate can make beautiful fireworks. They learned all of the concepts behind the demonstrations and experiments, and were excited to observe the application of this knowledge in the classroom.

Scheffer, vice president of research and development at Vorbeck Materials and a Beth Tfiloh parent, explained the applications of graphene to the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) elective class. Graphene is a novel material, based on single carbon atom-thick sheets, that is widely used in electronic engineering. The students examined samples of graphene from Vorbeck, a world leader in graphene technology, and watched a demonstration of the material’s properties. They also learned about its additional commercial uses, including: wearable electronics, such as heaters that could be incorporated into clothing; a battery strap for charging computers or smart phones, with an exceptional lifetime of seven days; and security and military applications.

The students appreciated Scheffer’s knowledge and the excitement of cutting-edge materials and technology. Scheffer emphasized that innovation is the ability to see or find a unique idea and to transform that concept into a product that offers new advantages. The real innovations are the ones that help and change our daily life — and the students are the future innovators!

By Lea Scheffer

 Dr. Lea Scheffer is a high school science teacher at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore.