With a sound like a gunshot, a small red plastic pail shot into the air Thursday afternoon.

More than 230 Winona Middle School eighth-graders shouted and exclaimed when Winona State University physics professor Gary Shields launched the pail. Next, he sent up a huge spray of water. All using the power of science.

Shields showed off liquid nitrogen to the students as part of the annual Eighth Grade Science Day at WSU. For two years, Shields has been leading the event, where students learn about subjects like forensics, optics and lasers.

“We want to get them interested in science and show them what we have at Winona State,” Shields said.

“It’s pretty cool and awesome,” said eighth-grader Alyse Kamrowski during the demonstration. Her classmate Megan Alford added, “I thought it was cool to see the reaction and how it works.”

At one of the afternoon sessions, WSU chemistry professor Jeanne Franz led a group of the eighth-grade students using chemical tests to identify different substances they were given. In a nod to popular crime shows, the students played out a mock investigation, where they had to eliminate a list of potential suspects who had set up an illicit methamphetamine lab in the building.

One team, consisting of students Peyton Schossow and Dominic Merchlewitz, successfully identified a substance as flour when their solution turned purple.

“It’s fun,” Schossow said. “You get to use different chemicals to find out which is which.”

At another table, Destiny Kronebusch and Daria Goede both said they enjoy science and will have to study it in college to pursue their plant to become teachers. While they said they enjoyed all of the different labs that were part of the science day, they thought the sound lab was the best.

“They had flames that went higher as the sound did,” Kronebusch said. “We even got to try out some of the equipment ourselves.”

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