Posted on Mar 28, 2005

Forty students from nine Capital Region high schools will become crime scene investigators in the fictional town of Willow Creek on Friday, April 1, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in the F.W. Olin Center and Science and Engineering complex at Union College.

This year students will be asked to help the Willow Creek curling team manager as he tries to develop thermal foot packs for the team.  Lab data has been stolen and the teams of students must discover which substance will be best for the project before the Olympic qualifying game at the county fair. Teams of students will analyze samples and do some detective work to recover data from a stolen briefcase.

The exercise is part of Union's third annual Irving Langmuir Chemistry Laboratory Competition, an event designed to expose students in Regents-level chemistry courses to the excitement of doing chemistry.

Participating schools are Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Guilderland, Hoosic Valley, Mechanicville, Niskayuna, South Colonie, Schenectady, Shaker and Stillwater.

The students will use their laboratory skills to solve the make-believe case using real samples. The students will use Union's laboratories and a variety of chemistry analytical techniques. They will be assisted by Union College chemistry students.

The Irving Langmuir Chemistry Laboratory Competition was organized by Union's chemistry department with support from Albany Molecular Research Inc and Schenectady International Inc.

This year's program was organized by Joanne Kehlbeck, assistant professor of chemistry, and a number of local and retired high school science teachers.

“The Langmuir competition is designed as a fun way to get the high school students to make creative use of some of the things they have been learning in their Regents chemistry courses,” said Kehlbeck. “At the same time, this is a great way to introduce them to the fun of doing chemistry.”

Irving Langmuir, a GE research chemist who taught at Union, was the first industrial chemist to win the Nobel Prize. His discoveries included the gas-filled incandescent light bulb, atomic hydrogen welding and cloud seeding. Langmuir was the inspiration for Dr. Felix Hoenikker, the central character in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, in which the scientist developed “Ice-Nine” that turned water into a solid.

For further questions about the competition, please contact Joanne Kehlbeck at 388-6776 or