ECBC engineer uncovers mystery behind pyrotechnics for middle school students
January 18, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Joseph Domanico, chief of the Pyrotechnics and Explosives Branch at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, recently addressed more than 100 eighth-graders at Bel Air Middle School with an interactive pyrotechnics presentation.
Looking to bring light to traditional science lessons through the real-world application of subjects like chemistry and physics, Domanico's presentation, sponsored by the National Defense Education Program, was designed to encourage five separate groups of middle school students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
Using pyrotechnics as an example of a STEM career pathway with thrills and frills, he not only illuminated the classroom, but also students' understanding of performing this profession safely.
"It takes a multi-disciplinary team approach to develop pyrotechnics products the right way," Domanico said. "To name some of the subject matter experts in demand for this type of work, we
need electrical engineers for the wiring, mechanical engineers for the structure design and chemists to create the colors."
After giving a snapshot of his personal career and the history of fireworks, he unveiled the science behind pyrotechnics. Domanico, also known as 'Pyro Joe,' conducted a special type of science lesson to turn mystery into knowledge and mastery.
Through videos and real-world demonstrations, students became familiarized with the concepts of exothermic chemical reactions and energy release as well as additive and subtractive colors.
This approach allowed middle school students to translate chemical compounds in the periodic table into colors that are emitted in pyrotechnics products through chemical reactions.
"When I look at the periodic table, it comes alive to me," Domanico said. "I see potassium as purple, barium as green and sodium as yellow. Based on this chart, we know which chemical elements to use to create an array of different colors in pyrotechnics products."
Domanico went a step further to visualize how energy and color production can be manipulated by adding different fuels and elements. By intertwining chemistry with its practical application in pyrotechnics during his presentation, he reinforced that the acquisition of indepth knowledge in STEM disciplines will empower them to pursue rewarding career pathways and impact the world
"It was very interesting to experience the real-world application of different chemical elements," said Tarek Antar, eighth-grade student at Bel Air Middle School. "Mr. Domanico's presentation was informative, entertaining and helped me understand what it takes to become a pyrotechnician."