Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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Contact: Judah Ginsberg
American Chemical Society

Toys — it's time to get serious

What do baker’s yeast, vinegar, salt, soap, hydrogen peroxide and cabbage have in common? They are all ingredients of The Green Machine, a new toy design that won the national "Chemvention" contest based on the theme of the 2005 National Chemistry Week, "The Joy of Toys." The announcement was made at this year’s spring national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The Green Machine is a home chemistry kit unlike any other. The design team — students from Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Mass. — wanted the toy to be just as interesting for young scientists as movies or video games. Their winning design is a chain of five different chemical reactions, with one reaction starting the next.

With Earth Day 2006 just around the corner, the design is even more exciting because it demonstrates principles of green chemistry. Green chemistry aims to reduce waste and pollution by preventing it, rather than by cleaning it up, which is exactly what The Green Machine does by using only safe ingredients and producing only safe products.

The Bridgewater team also made a point to carefully balance the ingredients —just like a perfect cake mix — so that all of the initial ingredients were used up and turned into end-products. Students who saw the design in action at the Green Chemistry Event at the Museum of Science in Boston, Mass., however, may just have been interested in the bubbles, changing colors, moving parts and lights.

The designers think that their design could be improved if it were built using a biodegradable plastic. The team spent $113.80 developing their design and received a prize of $2,000 that will be used to buy computer equipment for the chemistry department.


The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. The Society sponsors National Chemistry Week each October, which includes nationwide contests for grades K-12.