An empty chip bag shrinking in a microwave. A vortex generator shooting out smoke rings. Hydrogen bubbles exploding as they come in contact with a flame.
Hundreds of kids and their families watched in awe Sunday as suburban science teachers presented fast-paced demonstrations about electricity during the 30th annual Wonders of Science show at Fermilab in Batavia.
In the eyes of longtime teacher Lee Marek, the goal of the program is to spark children's interest by showing them the fun side of science. It also gives the public an opportunity to visit the physics and accelerator laboratory, he said.
"It's kind of infotainment -- information and entertainment," said Marek, who has been involved in the event since its inception. "You never know when something like this might turn a kid onto science."
Marek, a former instructor at Naperville North High School and the University of Illinois at Chicago, was one of three teachers on stage during the event. Karl Craddock of Fremd High School in Palatine and Bill Grosser of Oak Park and River Forest High School also presented various experiments.
In addition to the high-energy demonstrations, the show featured witty banter and participation from a few of the audience members who filled Fermilab's Ramsey Auditorium. Kids also took home a kit of materials and instructions so they can perform their own experiments.
Elgin resident Runa Tribhuwan's sons, 8-year-old Elijah and 6-year-old Enoch, already love science, she said, but the event made them even more curious and excited about the subject.
"It was a big inspiration for them," she said. "It's a hands-on thing, and I love it."
Jake Farris, who turns 9 on Monday, was fascinated by the demonstrations, particularly those that involved sparks or explosions. With a natural interest in science, technology, engineering and math, Jake was "paying attention to every little detail," said his mom, Ronda Farris of Huntley.
If the show is inspiring the next generation of future STEM students, it's serving its purpose, said education program leader Amanda Early. She started working at Fermilab last July, making this her first Wonders of Science show.
"Just seeing the excitement and energy (the teachers) bring that then transcends to the kids -- it's like they're seeing a rock concert," she said. "That's really exciting to be a part of."