Prakash hopes to kindle some of the same curiosity about chemistry (minus the actual combustion) with a new hand-crank operated chemistry set for kids. A prototype of the device just won the $50,000 first prize in a contest for inspiring science toys sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public. (The runners up include a kid-friendly neurophysiology kit that converts electrical signals from the muscles and brain into lights and sound — see the video below).
The chemistry kit developed by Prakash and graduate student George Korir manages to be both cutting edge and retro at the same time. It uses microfluidic channels like those found in modern DNA chips and other molecular biology equipment to move chemicals around and mix them together. But it also uses punch cards like the ones used in 1950s era computers to control the experiments.
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