Haunted Lab combines education, fun

By Jackie Nevarez

A buzzing noise drew crowds of children into Haunted Physics, a darkened room of the Midwest Museum of Natural History, 425 W. State St., filled with demonstrations of static electricity and flashing lights.

STEM Outreach Associate Jeremy Benson said putting on events like Wednesday’s Haunted Lab is his full-time job as an educator of the importance of science, technology, engineering and math. Benson drew a crowd of costume-clad children when he presented the musical Tesla coil, which he said was his favorite setup at the event.

“The musical Tesla coil … makes lightning and then it turns itself on and off really quickly. So, depending on how fast it’s turning itself on and off, it created the buzzing noise that we hear,” Benson said. “And so the computer controls how fast it’s turning on and off, so that changes the pitch that we hear so it can play music with lightning bolts.”

Reese French, 9, of Sycamore, said her favorite presentation was the buzzing Tesla coil, something French said she had never seen before.

“Anything else I learned was that you can see the other person from the other side,” French said, referring to a mirror that allowed a person to see his or her reflection while also looking at a person on the opposite side.

Mackenzie Thompson, freshman mechanical engineering major, volunteered to control the Van de Graaff generator, which she used to show kids the effects of static electricity by allowing them to touch the ball-shaped generator and see their hair stand on end.

“I was a lifeguard all throughout high school, so I love working with kids. So, I love combining science, technology, engineering and math with kids and teaching them to learn something that I love to do,” Thompson said.

Jade Khan, 5, of Sycamore, said her favorite thing about Tuesday was the trick-or-treating provided by local Sycamore businesses, but she also liked the rainbow lights at Haunted Physics. Children were encouraged to wear special glasses that would make the colored lights in the room expand into rainbows.

Khan’s brother, Jelani Bunn, 18, of Chicago, said he enjoyed seeing the Tesla coil, which he learned about in school.

“I’m in AP Physics at school, so it’s pretty cool to come here and see the stuff that we learned actually come into play,” Bunn said. “It’s really cool, not so haunted.”