For four nights only, the Allan Hancock College science building will transform into a scientific wonderland for eager community members, complete with erupting volcanoes, smoke cannons, lightning bolts and much, much more.

“It’s free, it’s way better than anything on television and best of all, it’ll make you think,” said Mick Bondello, professor of biology at Allan Hancock College.

It’s “Friday Night Science,” a special four-part event happening on Feb. 25, March 11, April 8 and May 13 at 6:30 p.m. in room M-310 on the college’s Santa Maria campus.

Described by Hancock physics instructor Rob Jorstad as “all of the fun of physics with none of the math,” the four-night series will introduce children and adults to the wonders of science through demonstrations of scientific principles and hands-on experiments.  The design of the event is modeled after the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco.

“The explosions, the lightning bolts, the flames, making people dizzy … its fun, physics is a lot of fun,” Jorstad said.

Each night of the free series will begin with a different demonstration by Bondello, Jorstad and their team of science techs.  Afterward, attendees will be able to participate in any of the hundreds of hands-on experiments that will be set up throughout the science building.  The experiments range from fun for all ages to more advanced experiments for high school and college students.

Jorstad said that he borrowed the idea for the science nights from community science events that he attended in college.  Those events got him excited about science, he said, and if making a liquid nitrogen volcano erupt 40 feet into the air is what it takes to bring that same excitement to students in Santa Maria, then that’s what he wants to do.

“Rather than telling students the answer, I want them to explore,” he said.  “This is basic experimental science.”

Jorstad and Bondello received funding for the Friday Night Science series from a federal Title V grant designed to entice more kids to attend college.  The funding has provided the materials; Allan Hancock College students will provide the hands-on support.

In fact, about 100 Hancock students have learned by doing while helping to design, build and test all of the experiments and demonstrations.  Those same students will be working at the four-night series, teaching others and spreading the message that science is fun.

“Our students will be able to experience what I love most about teaching – interacting with people and seeing the light bulbs go on when they realize, ‘oh, that’s how that works,’” Bondello said.

Both instructors agree, though, that the real excitement will be had by parents, kids, high school students, anyone who decides to attend Friday Night Science and see these experiments for themselves.

“I have former students stopping by our labs just to watch these demonstrations,” Jorstad said.  “You do not want to miss this.”

For more information about the Friday Night Science series, contact the Allan Hancock College life and physical sciences department at 922-6966 ext. 3202 or email rjorstad@hancockcollege.edu.