Fireworks and their Colors

Image Source:

Every year millions of people gather to view fireworks on the 4th of July. But how exactly do fireworks emit their colors and pops? Let’s find out below!

Sparkler -- Image Source:

There are 2 types of fireworks, the first is called a sparkler and the other is known as a firecracker. Most fireworks that are sold in the United States are of the sparkler variety where they emit showers of colored flames, sparks, noises and other effects. They are often hand-held and generally safer then a firecracker firework!

Firecrackers have been around for hundreds of years. They consist of black powder and ‘stars’ in a tight paper tube with a fuse to light the powder. Stars come in all shapes and sizes, but you can imagine a simple star as something like sparkler compound formed into a ball the size of a pea or a dime. The stars are poured into the tube and then surrounded by black powder. When the fuse burns into the shell, it ignites the bursting charge, causing the shell to explode. The explosion ignites the outside of the stars, which begin to burn with bright showers of sparks. Since the explosion throws the stars in all directions, you get the huge sphere of sparkling light that is so familiar at fireworks displays.

The Chemistry of Fireworks

There are two main mechanisms of color production in fireworks, incandescence and luminescence.

Incandescence is the emission of light caused by high temperature. As a substance heats up it emits colors in different stages starting with infrared, then red, orange, yellow, and white as it becomes increasingly hotter. The temperature of a firework can be controlled and with different components added such as charcoal, can be manipulated to be a desired color  at the proper time. Metals, such as aluminum, magnesium, and titanium, burn very brightly and are useful for increasing the temperature of the firework.

Luminescence the emission of light by a substance that has not been heated. To produce luminescence, energy is absorbed by an electron, causing it to become excited, but unstable. When the electron returns to a lower energy state the energy is released in the form of a photon (light). The colors are produced by heating metal salts, such as calcium chloride or sodium nitrate, that emit characteristic colors.

List of colors and elements in Fireworks:

Aluminum – Aluminum is used to produce silver and white flames and sparks. It is a common component of sparklers.

Antimony – Antimony is used to create firework glitter effects.

Barium – Barium is used to create green colors in fireworks, and it can also help stabilize other volatile elements.

Calcium – Calcium is used to deepen firework colors. Calcium salts produce orange fireworks.

Carbon – Carbon is one of the main components of black powder, which is used as a propellant in fireworks. Carbon provides the fuel for a firework.

Chlorine – Chlorine is an important component of many oxidizers in fireworks. Several of the metal salts that produce colors contain chlorine.

Copper – Copper compounds produce blue colors in fireworks.

Iron – Iron is used to produce sparks. The heat of the metal determines the color of the sparks.

Lithium – Lithium is a metal that is used to impart a red color to fireworks. Lithium carbonate, in particular, is a common colorant.

Magnesium – Magnesium burns a very bright white, so it is used to add white sparks or improve the overall brilliance of a firework.

Oxygen – Fireworks include oxidizers, which are substances that produce oxygen in order for burning to occur. The oxidizers are usually nitrates, chlorates, or perchlorates. Sometimes the same substance is used to provide oxygen and color.

Phosphorus – Phosphorus burns spontaneously in air and is also responsible for some glow-in-the-dark effects. It may be a component of a firework’s fuel.

Potassium – Potassium helps to oxidize firework mixtures. Potassium nitrate, potassium chlorate, and potassium perchlorate are all important oxidizers.

Sodium – Sodium imparts a gold or yellow color to fireworks, however, the color may be so bright that it masks less intense colors.

Sulfur – Sulfur is a component of black powder. It is found in a firework’s propellant/fuel.

Strontium – Strontium salts impart a red color to fireworks. Strontium compounds are also important for stabilizing fireworks mixtures.

Titanium – Titanium metal can be burned as powder or flakes to produce silver sparks.

Zinc – Zinc is used to create smoke effects for fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices.

The Sound Fireworks Make
The loud booms that are heard with the firework show is the result of the rapid release of energy in the air which then makes the air expand faster than the speed of sound. This creates a small sonic boom.

2016-2017 Educational Grants

This is the Updated Grant List for the 2016-2017 School Year!

Start the 2016-2017 school year off with excitement! There’s no better way to get students out of the “summer slump” and back on track than with High Touch High Tech!

Looking for ways to fund your next High Touch High Tech workshop? Whether your looking to fund your next exciting elementary programs or upcoming preschool science, the grants listed below are a fantastic resource for all educators!

July 2016

The Mazda Foundation awards grants to programs promoting education and literacy, environmental conservation, cross-cultural understanding, social welfare and scientific research. Apply by July 1, 2016.

The core Fulbright Scholar Program provides teaching and/or research grants to U.S. faculty and experienced professionals in a wide variety of academic and professional fields, including environmental science. Apply by August 1, 2016.

The Gopher Turtle Council’s environmental education grant supports educators and organizations committed to developing educational projects about the gopher tortoise and the world in which it lives. Apply by August 31, 2016.

The Fall 2016 grant cycle will open on August 1, 2016 and close on September 26, 2016. 

The annual Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant program is a great source of funding for improvement projects at public schools in the U.S. Grant funding falls into three categories, including “technology upgrades, tools for STEM programs, and facility renovations and safety improvements. If you’re looking to beautify your school, or enhance your technology and STEM offerings, this is the program for you.
Prize: Grants can range from $2,000 to $100,000, which a large majority falling in the $2,000 to $5,000 range.

Deadline: August 1 to November 1, 2016

The American Honda Foundation engages in grant making that reflects the basic tenets, beliefs and philosophies of Honda companies, which are characterized by the following qualities: imaginative, creative, youthful, forward-thinking, scientific, humanistic and innovative. We support youth education with a specific focus on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects in addition to the environment. Applications are accepted four times per year — February 1, May 1, August 1 and November 1.

Deadline: August 1 to September 30, 2016

Would you like to take your students on a field trip next year, but the challenge is funding is holding you back? Consider applying for a Target grant for class field trips. Each year, Target supports teachers across the country, providing small, one-time grants to help fund the out-of-class learning experiences. Interested grant seekers can apply online and view local learning field trips that have been funded.
Prize: Grants are available up to $700.

September 2014

Deadline: September 30, 2016

Project Learning Tree® (PLT), an award-winning national environmental education program for educators and students in grades PreK-12, has GreenWorks! grants of up to $1,000 available to schools and youth organizations for environmental service-learning projects. Students “learn by doing” through community action projects they design and implement to improve an aspect of their school or neighborhood’s environment. These environmental action projects blend community service with academic curriculum to link classroom learning to the real world.

Sponsored by North Carolina’s Touchstone Energy® cooperatives, Bright Ideas education grants provide funding for hands-on classroom projects that fall outside normal funding parameters. Each year, about $600,000 is given out to teachers across the state by our state’s electric cooperatives. Applications are accepted from April through mid-September.

Deadlines: September 30th- typically for spring and summer projects
January 31st- typically for fall and winter projects

The Captain Planet Foundation provides grants of up to $2,500. The Foundation supports high-quality, hands-on environmental stewardship projects that have enabled more than 1.1M youth across the U.S. and around the world make significant environmental improvements to their schools or communities.


K-12 teachers who develop or apply science, math and technology may qualify for a grant of up to $250. Grants may be used for demonstration kits, science supplies, math and science software and other materials to help make science, math and technology come alive in the classroom. Grants will be considered in November, January and April.

As part of Annie’s commitment to school gardens, the company created the Annie’s Garden Funder on CrowdRise to empower schools and like-minded friends to raise money for school gardens.

Schools that receive a honeybee observation hive agree to run an annual fundraiser selling Bee Cause Honey to help pay for the ongoing care of the bee family they have adopted and for the installation of honeybee observation hives at other schools.


Clif Bar Family Foundation Small Grants are awarded for general organizational support or to fund specific projects that protect the Earth, create a healthy food system, increase opportunities for outdoor activity, reduce environmental health hazards, and build stronger communities. The grants, averaging approximately $8,000 each, are awarded four times per year.

North Carolina’s electric cooperatives serve more than 2.5 million people across North Carolina in 93 of the state’s 100 counties. The cooperatives emphasize the importance of community involvement, integrity, accountability and innovation, and as part of that commitment, sponsor Bright Ideas education grants. These grants provide funding for hands-on classroom projects for students in grades K–12 throughout the state.

Deadlines: August 29, 2016 or February 28, 2017

The Gannett Foundation supports local organizations in communities served by the Gannett Company. In North Carolina, this includes the Asheville and Greensboro markets. Priorities include education and neighborhood improvement, youth development, community problem-solving and environmental conservation. Applications considered twice a year. 

Through its National Giving Program, the Walmart Foundation awards grants of $250,000 and above to non-profit organizations that operate on a national scope through chapters/affiliates in many states around the country or through programs that operate regionally/locally but seek funding to replicate program activities nationally. The Foundation accepts program ideas year-round using the Letter of Inquiry format only.

The Cornell Douglas Foundation provides grants to organizations that advocate for environmental health and justice, encourage stewardship of the environment, and further respect for sustainability of resources. The average grant amount is $10,000. Applications accepted year-round.

The National Wildlife Federation’s tree bank program provides free trees to schools, youth groups and nonprofit organizations. Apply by January 31 for spring planting dates (February-May 10) and by September 21 for fall planting dates (October-January).

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation accepts proposals for research projects and educational initiatives for developing tools that promote awareness or increase knowledge of the solid waste industry. Awards are generally up to $500,000. Pre-proposals are due by 5 p.m. each May 21 and October 1.    

FundingFactory is a free program where schools, non-profits, and charities earn points that can be redeemed for cash or products by recycling their empty printer cartridges, cell phones, laptops, and other small electronics.

Deadlines: September 1, 2016 and April 1, 2017

The NiSource Charitable Foundation funds nonprofit organizations focusing on learning and science education, environmental and energy sustainability, community vitality and development, and public safety and human services. Eligible organizations must have a direct impact in a NiSource service area.

The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF) and Dreyer’s Fruit Bars are planting orchards across the country in a collaborative program called “Communities Take Root,” and your town could be next! They invite your community to apply for this exciting opportunity to grow fresh fruit, beautify neighborhoods, strengthen relationships and build community food security—all through the simple act of planting fruit trees.

The Simply Organic 1% fund supports and promotes the growth of organic and sustainable agriculture. One percent of sales on all Simply Organic spices, seasonings, flavors and mixes goes to support organic agriculture — through research, education and grower development. 

Need some funding for your crazy brilliant idea? The Awesome Foundation awards $1,000 grants every month. It couldn’t be simpler. Deadlines are rolling.

Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools is a grassroots public health effort to engage stakeholders at the local, state and national level to support salad bars in schools. The program’s goal is to fund and award 6,000 salad bars over the next three years. Any K-12 school district participating in the National School Lunch Program is eligible. Applications accepted throughout the year.

Applications accepted after August 1, 2016

Pets in the Classroom is an educational grants program to help bring aquarium fish or small pets into PK-8th grade classrooms. You can obtain a grant or coupon for the purchase of new pets, pet environments or pet food and supplies for existing classroom pets. Applications accepted year-round.

The International Paper Foundation supports non-profit organizations in communities where its employees live and work. Environmental education is one of the primary areas the Foundation supports. An online application process routes applications to the appropriate local facility for consideration. Contact your local facility for submission deadlines.

Public school teachers who register their classroom at the Adopt-a-Classroom website can be adopted by an individual, business or foundation. Once adopted, teachers will receive credit to purchase items that enrich the learning environment, including classroom technology. 

The Lawrence Foundation is a private, family foundation focused on making grants to support environmental, education, human services and other causes. Applications are open to any organization that meets the grant guidelines. Two grant cycles a year. The deadlines are April 30 and November 1. invites teens in the U.S. to apply for grants to fund their community service ideas across any one of 16 issue areas, including the environment. Grant requests are reviewed and responded to on a monthly basis. Grants up to $500 are awarded.

Recognizing that healthy, thriving communities depend on involved citizens, organizations, and corporate partners for momentum, Waste Management lends its support and services to programs related to environmental education, the environment and the community. Applications accepted year-round.

The Norcross Wildlife Foundation supports grassroots organizations in the U.S. working to protect wild land. Grants averaging $5,000 are provided primarily for program-related office and field equipment and public education and outreach materials. The Foundation also provides no-interest loans to acquire land prioritized for conservation. Applications may be submitted at any time.

Competitive grants are available to not-for-profit, grassroots organizations in the U.S. that facilitate progressive social change by addressing the underlying conditions of societal and environmental problems. Only proposals from grassroots, constituent-led organizations are considered. Letters of interest may be submitted at any time.

Young people ages 18-25 are eligible to apply for grants to pursue research, exploration, and conservation-related projects consistent with National Geographic’s existing grant programs, including the Committee for Research and Exploration, the Expeditions Council, and the Conservation Trust. Applications are accepted throughout the year.

Environmental Education Centers may be eligible for a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). (Federal Agencies and for-profit institutions are not elegible.) The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development.

The Fund for Wild Nature provides “small grants to small groups who get things done.” The fund provides money for campaigns (including development of citizen science endeavors) to save and restore native species, biological diversity and wild ecosystems. Most grants awarded in the past ranged from $1,000-$3,000.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has initiated a small grants program in North Carolina and Virginia as part of its strategic plan to identify and cultivate its constituency, to build value with the supporting public, to create community awareness of the Parkway as an economic and quality of life resource, and to assist the Blue Ridge Parkway with the accomplishment of its goals.

Grants in amounts up to $500 will be awarded upon successful application from private agencies, schools, arts councils, and other not-for-profit organizations whose programs and projects support the mission of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Deadline: January 23, 2017

Are you succeeding in science lab instruction with minimal equipment? The Shell Science Lab Challenge gives you an opportunity to share your exemplary approach for a chance to win a school science lab makeover support package valued at $20,000!

The AIAA offers classroom grants of up to $200 for science and math programs. K-12 teachers who use science, math, or technology in the classroom can apply.


Mini-grants are available from the Entomological Foundation for curriculum development efforts or workshops emphasizing the uses of insects in K-12 educational settings.


The NSTA has more than a dozen grant and recognition programs for teachers.


Five hundred dollar grants are available annually from the NWA for K-12 teachers who help to improve meteorology education for their students. The selected teachers can use the funds to take an accredited course in atmospheric sciences, attend a relevant workshop or conference, or purchase scientific materials and equipment for the classroom.


Up to $10,000 to student/teacher groups for projects tackling environmental issues.

The LEGO Children’s Fund provides grants primarily in two focus areas: (1) early childhood education and development that is directly related to creativity and (2) technology and communication projects that advance learning opportunities. Typical awards are between $500 and $5,000. Applications accepted four times a year.

The Georgia-Pacific Foundation supports organizations that improve the quality of life in communities where Georgia-Pacific operates. Grants are awarded for educational efforts, community enrichment, environmental programs, and entrepreneurship initiatives. Requests are reviewed on a rolling cycle throughout the year. Due to year-end limited funding, early submission is encouraged.

The Annenberg Foundation focuses its grantmaking on education and youth development; arts, culture, and humanities; civic and community; animal services and the environment; and health and human services. Letters of inquiry that address these interests are accepted throughout the year.

Summer Solstice 2016 and the Strawberry Moon!

Image Source:


The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, a day falling around late June when there are approximately 17 hours of day light. But 2016 is a special year, because the solstice coincides with the Strawberry Moon, a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

What is the Strawberry Moon?

The Strawberry Moon is a full moon. Despite the name, the moon will not appear pink or red. The label was coined by the Algonquin tribes of North America who believed June’s full moon signaled the beginning of the strawberry picking season. The two events coincide once every 70 years.

The last strawberry moon occurred on the summer solstice on June 22, 1967. If you miss tonight’s moon you’ll have to wait another 46 years before you can see the full moon on the summer solstice with the rare event not happening again until June 21, 2062.

The Summer Solstice 2016

Today, Monday June 20th, the sun will rise at 4:45am and sunset will happen at 10:34pm. Marking it as the longest day of the year. After tonight the days begin to shorten in the northern hemisphere.

Make sure to check out the live stream of tonight’s Strawberry Moon with Slooh here:

The cool science of hot peppers!

Image Source:


Chili peppers do much more than spice up food and burn people’s mouths. Scientists have discovered many uses for the chemical that gives these veggies their zing. Capsaicin (Kap-SAY-ih-sin), it’s the chemical that gives these peppers their spiciness. In small doses, capsaicin can relieve pain, help with weight loss and possibly affect microbes in the gut to keep people healthier. How cool is that?

When food sits out in warm weather, microbes on the food start to multiply. If people eat food with too many of these germs, they risk getting very sick. The cold temperature inside a refrigerator stops most microbes from growing. That’s why most people today rely on refrigerators to keep their food fresh. But long ago, those appliances weren’t available.  People would use chilies for their capsaicin to slow or stop microbial growth on food items.

The heat of a chili pepper is not actually a taste. That burning feeling comes from the body’s pain response system. Capsaicin inside the pepper activates a protein in people’s cells called TRPV1. This protein’s job is to sense heat. When it does, it alerts the brain. The brain then responds by sending a jolt of pain back to the affected part of the body.

The Carolina Reaper currently holds the title as the hottest chili pepper in the world. It is as much as 880 times as hot as a jalapeño — so hot that it can actually leave chemical burns on someone’s skin.

Carolina Reaper Pepper - Image Source: By Nytsuga BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

So as you gear up for some summertime picnics this summer…bring some of these chili peppers along, take a deep breath and bite into a chili pepper for some health related benefits!

Introducing Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus, New Peacock Spiders!

Image Source: Jurgen Otto via Wikimedia Commons

Introducing Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus, New Peacock Spiders! Who exactly are Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus?

Skeletorus (Maratus sceletus), one of the newly named species of Peacock Spider, got its name from the white markings on the males’ dark limbs, which give them the look of a skeleton. (T0 see what Skeletorus looks like Click Here)

Sparklemuffin was the pet name Maddie Girard, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, gave Maratus jactatus, which has blue and red stripes on its midsection. (Check Out Sparklemuffin by Clicking Here)

Image Source: By Graham Wise from Brisbane, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons

Peacock spiders are only found in southern Australia and little academic study has been done on them. Until, Australian scientist and photographer Dr. Jurgen Otto, helped to discover 20 new species of peacock spider in the past four years. 

Peacock spiders are a type of jumping spider, related to common jumpers you may have seen yourself. Jumping spiders don’t weave silken webs to catch prey, but instead hunt and stalk their prey. To see the Peacock Spider dance please check out this video!