By Wendy Gragg

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – The chemistry labs at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor were alive with exciting scientific discoveries this week – everything from making slime to hammering a nail with a banana.

The off-the-wall experiments were the highlights of UMHB's Chemistry Camp in Belton this month. Dr. Darrell Watson, UMHB dean of sciences, spent two weeklong sessions igniting a love of science in nearly 150 rising fourth- through sixth-grade students from across the Central Texas area.

"We've got to excite these young minds about science," Watson said.

Watson, who says his two passions are children and science, has been working with students at Chem Camp since 1992. He said he's interested in hooking the next generation on science, so there are people to take his place when he retires.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if one of these kids was another Jonas Salk?" he said.

Watson and helpers led students through lessons in the elements, acids and bases and plenty of fun demonstrations. They made and ate liquid nitrogen slushies, learned what makes fireworks change colors, hammered nails with a banana and turned pennies silver and gold.

"We learned how to make glue and make ink," said Mattie Price, 11, from Salado.

This was Mattie's second year at Chem Camp, and she said she enjoyed it even more this time.

"It was awesome," she said. "We got to experiment and learn cool stuff."

UMHB senior Jennifer Pietrowski helped Watson with Chem Camp as an instructor. She said it's important for the younger students to gain an appreciation for chemistry because it's all around them. There are safe experiements they can even perform at their homes.

Pietrowski graduates in August with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry, and she said she wouldn't be surprised if the students from Chem Camp weren't far behind her.

"Some of these kids know more than I did at their age. It's pretty amazing," she said.

Contact Wendy Gragg at

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