The Chemistry Department is a big participant in the Academy-wide Summer Seminar program. This is a unique program to give potential Academy candidates a chance to experience what it's like to attend the Academy. Seminar participants will get a taste of the academic environment, physical challenges, and leaderships skills necessary to excel as a cadet. The seminars take place in the first part of June each year and last for one week. In addition to chemistry, students can attend workshops in biology, physics, astronautics, airmanship, geography and meteorology (to name just a few). For complete details on the program, visit http://www.academyadmissions.com/#Page/Summer_Seminar
Typical chemistry workshops include black and white photography, polymer chemistry, water chemistry, and others.
(1) Analysis of Water in the Environment
Water in the environment, necessary for all life, is increasingly susceptible to pollution from various sources. Chemical analysis of water in the field is a fundamental tool of environmental scientists. This workshop provides hands-on experience in several basic methods of water-quality analysis. We will begin by discussing the basic types of water resources and the chemistry of water analysis. Then, weather permitting, we will take portable chemical devices and methods out to the field to analyze the quality of several different bodies of water on the Academy site, from the mountains to the prairie. We will also bring samples back to the USAFA chemistry lab for other analyses, and conclude with a discussion of our findings. After this workshop, you will have a thorough understanding of what must be done to keep water resources safe for use!
(2) Black and White Photography
This 1/2-day lab explores a particularly fun application of art and science -- black and white photography. The basic chemistry and physics of photography will be discussed and you will be given the opportunity to produce a negative image using a pinhole camera that you construct yourself. You will take a photograph somewhere on the USAFA campus and then develop the latent image in the darkroom.
(3) Polymers, Polymers Everywhere: Silly Putty, Slime and Other Fun Stuff
From the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, polymers (commonly known as plastics) are there every step of the way. They help you get to school or work, help fly you across the country or the world, and will help take man to Mars and beyond. This workshop will examine these extremely important materials close up and allow each student to make their own sample. We'll begin by charting the development of plastics over the last century--from the early Bakelite to the Kevlar and Plexiglas to today. You will learn about what makes polymers tick and why they are so important in everyday life. Finally, we'll retreat to the laboratory where you will synthesize your very own polymer. After we're done with you, you will never look at a piece of plastic the same way again!
(4) The Chemistry of Aerospace Propulsion
Propelling objects through the air has long been a key element in combat, beginning with purely mechanical catapults and trebuchets thousands of years ago. The advent of gunpowder and other chemical means to facilitate propulsion has refined these capabilities dramatically in recent years to the point that nearly all modern instruments of warfare now depend upon chemical propulsion of some sort. Chemistry concepts including kinetics, thermodynamics, and gas laws can greatly enhance our understanding of how all things from small bullets to aircraft to Moon-bound rockets are propelled. This workshop will address these chemistry topics and their direct applications to propulsion systems. Then we will apply these concepts as we attempt to optimize a propellant combination that will accelerate a projectile through a test apparatus to measure the performance as indicated by projectile velocity. Finally, we will analyze which of our propellant choices proved most effective and why. After this workshop, you will never view a fireworks mortar or launching rocket the same way again!