Children squealed and giggled with delight when a woman dressed up like a mad scientist pulled out a steaming chunk of dry ice.
Alyssa Rucker, wearing a white lab coat, broke the ice into smaller pieces and dropped them into a beaker full of soap and water.
What happened next was simple chemistry, and the children roared in approval.
In less than one second, the beaker was overflowing with bubbles. Rucker grabbed a handful and blew the suds into the audience of about 100 children.
“That’s awesome!” once child yelled from the back.
“That’s amazing!” said another.
Saturday’s Festival of Bubbles at the SouthShore Regional Library in Ruskin was one of many programs planned this summer by the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.
Michelle Weinstein, librarian of the SouthShore branch at 15816 Beth Shields Way, said all 27 libraries countywide will have programs on reading, science, music and other activities tailored for children who are out of school for the summer.
The bubble show was funded by donations to the library. The money was used to hire Rucker, who works for Mad Science, a company that provides interactive science lessons for children.
“We’re learning a lot,” said John Trout, who brought his 7-year-old daughter, Anne. “It’s good, clean, safe fun.”
The star of Rucker’s show was carbon dioxide, the stuff of which dry ice is made.
Using different combinations of soap, dry ice, and hot or cold water, Rucker created bubbles that clumped together or billiard ball-sized bubbles filled with carbon dioxide mist.
She blew bubbles into the crowd and even put some on children’s heads, where they popped then dissipated in what appeared to be a puff of smoke.
Along the way, Rucker recited scientific facts.
“If you notice, these soap bubbles do not float, they sink,” Rucker said. “Because carbon dioxide is heavy. They make things sink.”
Rucker also explained to her audience members that they’ve consumed carbon dioxide before, in the form of soda. And the gas, she said, also makes people burp.
“So who wants to taste a burp?” Rucker asked as she put dry ice into a slender beaker and the gas billowed out from a hole in the side.
She then asked the children to stick their tongues out so they could taste the gas.
“It tasted like soda without the flavor,” said 11-year-old Kiana Bradford.
Kiana’s mother said she takes her family to the SouthShore Library every weekend.
“It’s informative and fun,” Angela Bradford said. “There’s always something new to learn. It’s free fun.”
Rucker said it’s important to entertain as well as educate.
“This is a good way to be interactive,” she said. “And science is all about hands-on learning. Half the time, the kids don’t even know they’re actually learning something.”
For information on the summer programs offered by the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, call (813) 273-3652 or visit the website at www.hcplc.org.