By Gretchen Teske, The JOURNAL
Before Professor Toto began his tests, he reminded all 207 kids in attendance they were going to be performing Absolute Science. Cheers erupted through the library as he performed five experiments chosen to create absolute fun.
On Tuesday, June 12, the Washington Public Library hosted Absolute Science, a program aimed at providing fun and interactive projects for kids. Ron Johnson, known by his stage name as Professor Toto, is the newest member of the Absolute Science team. The Davenport native was a professional clown and stilt walker for the past 30 years. His friend Rick Brammer runs the Absolute Science program and asked him to join. Since his debut in March, he?s kept busy with 29 performances booked for June. ?I?m the busiest of everyone at Absolute Science,? he said.
His first experiment of the day was with a metal pipe that he heated with a propane torch. Once the pipe was heated, it produced a whistling sound. He then joked he needed to pour it out and tipped it horizontally, to mime pouring the sound into a cup. The sound stopped.
When he stood it upright again, the sound continued. Professor Toto explained there was a basket inside the pipe that was directing the sound. By keeping it vertical, the sound could escape. After putting it away, he brought out a chemical: lycopodium.
Lycopodium powder is used in some medicines, but can be highly flammable. He held up a small pile of it in a container and tried to light it aflame, but to no avail. He explained that only the small particles were flammable so the large amount was safe. He then produced a lighter which he taped a clear plastic tube to. Inside the tube was lycopodium powder. He blew on one end of the tube to make the powder shoot out of the other, while holding down the lighter. The result was a homemade flame thrower.
The flame thrower proved to be a crowd favorite, but for children?s librarian Jenisa Harris, getting kids excited about coming to the library was her favorite part.
?We?re re-defining what libraries are,? she said. ?They?re not just for books, they?re for fun activities.? She was excited to see so many kids arrive, as it was a ?record? for the library.
Sonya Love-Smith, a preschool teacher at St. James, brought her nephew to the show. She was even chosen to be part of the presentation with an act on disappearing ink. Love-smith said that exposing kids to new ideas and experiences is something kids need the most. ?They get exposure and experience to a variety of things that will help their mind grow,? she said.
Before the show ended, Professor Toto completed three more experiments which included a Mentos and diet coke explosion, a color-changing chemical reaction and a laser show.
Yesterday?s show was one of three Johnson would be completing before the day was over. He was also scheduled to be in Kalona and Wellman. For Johnson, giving a positive exposure to science is what it?s all about. ?Science was my favorite subject in school,? he says. ?Now I get the best of both worlds.?
In college, he had trouble deciding between performing or science but ultimately went with performing. His new job at Absolute Science allows him to do both perfectly. ?We feel our job is to entertain first and educate as a side note,? he said. ?We hope to inspire with this little show today. Somebody may become a scientist because of it.?
Isabella Fikes, 13, attended the event as a volunteer, but as a science lover she was more interested in the education than the entertainment. She?s not totally sure what she wants to be when she grows up but scientist is on the list. ?It would be fun,? she said.