Happy Mole Day! Mole day is an unofficial holiday celebrated on October 23rd between 6:02 AM and 6:02 PM. The time and date are based on Avogadro’s number, 6.02×10^23, which is the number of atoms/molecules in one mole of a substance. A mole is one of the seven base units of the International System of Units (SI) that defines the amount of a substance.
Mole Day and Pi Day are staples of STEM school culture that add fun and festivity into the school day. STEM educators love a good pun so of course Mole Day is filled with images, jokes and activities related to the small mammal. I was feeling like a Mole Day Scrooge because I didn’t want to join in on school activities like making a decorative stuffed mole.
I realized that if I was going to make something, I wanted it to be connected to the actual science and mathematics behind the mole as a unit. I wanted to make something that helped me learn more about the mole. I wanted to celebrate Mole Day in the Makerspace!
The first thing I wondered was, what does a mole of something look like? There is lots of aluminum stock available in my makerspace so that seemed like a good starting point. The atomic mass of aluminum is 26.981539 u. Which means 1 mole of aluminum has a mass of 26.981539 grams. atomic mass * molar constant (1 g/mol) * moles (mol) = mass (g) Then it was a simple matter of machining down a block of aluminum to a rough size, weighing and then filing and sanding until hitting the target mass.
And just like that we have a Mole of Aluminum! I upped the level by using a small CNC machine to engrave a mole icon and the atomic symbol of aluminum.
This could be a challenge for an engineering student, fabricate a one mole object out of aluminum or mild steel. I used mass to determine the amount of material but students could also make their object by calculating the volume of one mole of the material. An activity like this is a great way to take an abstract concept and bring it to a human scale object that students can design and fabricate.
Of course distance learning makes this activity impossible but CAD tools like Fusion 360 give a virtual option for exploring mole concepts in human scale dimensions. When creating bodies in Fusion 360, students can select a physical material, including a range of metals.
Once the body is made, students can look at the properties of the objects to see the mass and volume of the object. This can make for an interesting exploration as students create objects of different materials. In the image below, the bodies modeled are one mole of aluminum, gold, titanium and steel.
Please leave a comment letting me know how you celebrate Mole Day and other STEM holidays in your makerspace.