We're in the process of converting one of our introductory chemistry classes into a project-based curriculum. One of the ideas that's getting tossed around is a project built up around movie special effects, and the subject of pyrotechnics and other fire effects came up.
One spirited discussion later, we (well, some of us) were left wondering about the safety and legal constrains of creating theatrical pyrotechnics as part of a chemistry lab project. In particular, I know that fireworks are 100% illegal in our city, which seems to imply that anything involving flash powder-type reactions might not only be dangerous, but illegal. However, I'd like to bring more than my own initial bias to our next meeting.
I'd like to be able to bring some insights back to the group on:
1) What kind of evidence exists for or against the legality and safety of such a project? (i.e. laws, anecdotes, case studies, etc.)
2) Is this idea, overall, worth the logistical hassle?
3) Are there some particularly good alternatives that would have the same "wow" factor (i.e. allows students to experiment with variables and has a neat effect) but with decreased risk.
Any suggestions or insights would be most welcome!
Pasadena City College
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