There’s still one week to get a budding chemist in your life a present they’ll never forget: A real chemistry set that skips cheap plastic equipment and instead features actual glassware and chemicals that can be used in real experiments. Donate to this Kickstarter campaign, and you could be the proud owner of a personalized periodic table in .jpg format ($7.00 donation); a CD-ROM that contains chemicals safety information, three books in .pdf format, and some other bonus features ($20); a kit that will start 10 fires with the enclosed chemicals and spit ($45); a set of 65 chemicals, 56 of which were listed in the 1926 edition of “Chemistry for Boys” from the classic Gilbert chemistry set ($175); or a glassware and equipment set ($225). If your budget is big enough, you could support the campaign by purchasing a fully equipped home lab: the Master Chemistry Set, including “Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments” by Robert B. Thompson ($550), or a hand-crafted Heirloom chemistry set ($900, sold out) designed by John Farrell Kuhns who owns the Parkville, Mo.-based science shop H.M.S. Beagle and is the sponsor of the Kickstarter campaign. H.M.S. Beagle is the largest science store in the midwestern U.S.
John’s initial goal was to raise $30,000, and when this blog post hit the interwebs, pledges totaled $130,450 from 440 backers.
Nine years ago, store owners John and his wife, Carol, opened the doors of H.M.S. Beagle so kids today could experience “real” science. Inspired to become a chemist by the gift of a Gilbert chemistry set that he received for Christmas in 1959, John was disappointed that chemistry sets are few and far between on store shelves now-a-days. The store provides kids (and adults) the ability to explore real science by offering professional-quality lab supplies and equipment, as well as classes, demonstrations, and workshops.
When working with chemicals, safety is always a concern. A CD-ROM with the material safety data sheet (MSDS) is included with all chemicals purchased. “As far as I know,” John says, “we’re the only ones putting QR codes directly on the chemical labels.” A quick scan of the code with a cell phone, and the MSDS appears on your smartphone. And any chemical available at H.M.S. Beagle has an MSDS available on the store’s website. Additionally, John tells Newscripts, “for some of the especially dangerous chemicals, we do put first aid information and warnings on the labels.” And if safety is still a concern, “In the cases where the sets are intended for use with young children,” John says, “we will substitute less dangerous chemicals that will be chemically equivalent for the given experiment.”
H.M.S. Beagle also sponsors a kids science club, for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. There are more than 1,000 members of the club, and kids meet on Saturdays. The most recent meeting hosted students in kindergarten through third grade, and after a presentation about insects, participants constructed fantasy insects, described the habitats in which they would be found, and created two-part scientific names for their insect. “We don’t do hands-on chemistry with the kids club,” John says. “I am hoping to raise enough money to change that by purchasing and installing eyewash and drench shower stations.”
John has been a member of the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN, since the 1960s when he was the president of the student affiliate at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, where he assisted in the editing and publishing of the department’s first lab manual for chemistry students.
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