MONUMENT - Hair stood on end, hot dogs instantly froze and shattered, and everyone screamed when they were shocked by a current that zapped their human chain.
"My forearms got jolted," eighth-grader Andrew Merrell said about the latter experiment, which used a Van de Graaff generator to send an electrostatic charge throughout a circle of students holding hands.
"It was really cool how it went through all of us," Andrew said.
Complex scientific formulas and boring theories evaporated as quickly as the liquid nitrogen on the lab table in Maureen Lockette's science classes Thursday at Lewis-Palmer Middle School.
A visitor, Maj. Jake Harley, an assistant professor of physics at the Air Force Academy, brought exciting props to teach students about the 10 forms of energy.
The fast-paced, interactive lessons covered principles of electricity, magnetic fields, light, movement and other elements involved in creating, releasing and transforming energy.
Harley led the classes in the same way as he does with cadets - by getting them to experience science in action.
"It's important that they know science is a blast," Harley said, "and learning about it is cool, fun and interesting. It helps keep them motivated in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math,) especially at this age."
Students helped demonstrate the principles, such as using a copper ring to understand how alternating current forms and having a student rotating on a disk illustrate how work of the human body produces energy.
"It was really fun that he made us a part of it," said eighth-grader Rachel Sears.
Students also learned what makes a figure skater spin faster, why a bag of chips expands at higher altitudes and how rubbing rabbit fur on PVC pipe can make a piece of mylar dance.
"It's not like we were just watching, we got to do stuff," said student Jessica Neidig. "It was so much fun."
The presentation is part of a "Physics is Phun" program the academy takes on the road to schools and festivals. The program will be at the Big Cool Science Festival, a free event from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Colorado College's science hall at 1040 N. Nevada Ave.
Lockette said she contacted the Academy's physics department four years ago to get her school on the list for a presentation. It's now an annual tradition.
"Students can see, feel and hear energy," she said. "It would be just something we read about, if the academy did not come over with their equipment and expertise."
Student Adam Swafford marveled at how a hot dog quickly froze in a vat of liquid nitrogen, which is minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
He picked up one of the pieces, after Harley let it fall to the floor.
"It was very cold at first, then it got mushier. It also smelled like it had been cooked," 14-year-old Adam said. "This was definitely one of my most interesting science classes."
Harley had a hard time finding students to demonstrate how static electricity makes hair stand at attention.
"They have so much product in their hair these days; I need the unbathed ones," he joked.
Student Paige Christensen said she liked Harley's style.
"He made us all laugh and feel comfortable," she said.
Exactly the point, Lockette said.
"Maj. Harley makes a conceptual idea - energy - something that students can really be a part of," she said. "Hands-on is really the best way for students to glean the concepts. He also speaks to the students as adult learners, so they are actively engaged."