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Chemistry Lab: Carbonate/Bicarbonate Buffer

Chemistry Experiment: Illustrate how a set of related compounds create a chemical system, termed a buffer, which is resistant to change in pH.

This experiment was broadcast live over the internet via satellite. We introduced the experiment with a coverage of common acids and bases found in a typical home. Next we introduced how physical exertion causes the production of hydronium ion (a proton attached to a single water molecule, H3O+). The hydronium ion combines with the buffer in our blood stream, and is transported using a protein (carbonic anhydrase) as carbonic acid, H2CO3. In our lungs, this acid is exhaled as carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). Therefore, the first portion of the live experiment was in fact the reverse of what happens in our lungs; when Youth Ambassador Barbara exhaled into water, the CO2 in her breath recombined with water in the beaker, forming carbonic acid, H2CO3. Full result details available here!

  • Carbonate & Bicarbonate Buffer Live Experiment

  • Exhaling Into Water

  • Concentration of CO2 vs Altitude

  • Concentration of CO2 vs Altitude (Addendum)

» Full experiment report and results
» Dr. Agnes' Chemistry Lab

During the expedition chemistry professor Dr. George Agnes will draw lessons from Salar de Uyuni's unique environment to illustrate fundamental chemistry principles. On a daily basis the i2P team will conduct fascinating chemistry experiments that students following on-line can observe and replicate in their classrooms.

Final Day!

Watch the Youth Ambassadors as they finish their 200km journey across the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia! Closing messages from i2P founders Ray Zahab & Bob Cox and the i2P team! Making the impossible, Possible!

Science Of The Run: Adaptation

Physiology Experiment: Highlight how the body's breathing control system changes in low oxygen and how we respond to exercise. Check out the links at the end of this post for the full experiment details!

The final day of the run across the Bolivian altiplano provided some of the best scenery of the entire trip. It also provided us with some very interesting physiological data. We have been talking about oxygen saturation throughout the trip, as we are at high elevations and therefore getting oxygen into our systems is constantly on our minds.

The run finished at the highest elevation of the entire trip – 4200 meters! The Youth Ambassadors have adapted so much that they were able to finish with a strong run despite having the lowest oxygen concentrations in their bodies that they had yet experienced. Below is the latest O2 saturation graph with the new data points on the right side of the graph. We were fortunate that our local guides who live at 3800 meters elevation agreed to participate in the testing as well! For more details on the experiment, visitthe full report and results page.

  • Blood O2 vs. Altitude

  • Oxygen Saturation at Rest

  • Heart Rate at Rest

» Full experiment report and results
» Dr. Wells' Science Of The Run

A complex series of metabolic pathways are present in human muscles that break down food to produce energy for different types of muscular activity. Dr. Greg Wells will perform experiments to highlight how our bodies work in high altitude and during long distance endurance running.

Science Of The Run: Aerobic Oxidative Metabolism

Physiology Experiment: Demonstrate the how the aerobic energy system provides energy to fuel our muscles when we exercise. Check out the links at the end of this post for the full experiment details!

The heart contracts in a constant rhythm (the heart beat) that may speed up or slow down depending on the need for blood (and oxygen) in the various body tissues. For example, if you start running, your leg muscles will need more oxygen to do the work of running. Therefore your heart will have to pump more oxygen-carrying blood to those working muscles, and so have to beat more rapidly in order to supply that blood. In today's post we will show you how hard the heart is working during exercise.

We placed heart rate monitors and GPS units on the Youth Ambassadors today as they ran 40km across the edge of the Salar and then up into the Altiplano where Volcanoes surround us. The heart rate profile from the run is available below and explained in more detail on the experiment report and results page.

  • Science Of The Run: Heart Rate

  • Youth Ambassador #1 HR Profile

  • Youth Ambassador #2 HR Profile

» Full experiment report and results
» Dr. Wells' Science Of The Run

A complex series of metabolic pathways are present in human muscles that break down food to produce energy for different types of muscular activity. Dr. Greg Wells will perform experiments to highlight how our bodies work in high altitude and during long distance endurance running.

Chemistry Lab: Gummy Bear Combustion

Day 4/5 Chemistry: In another series of reactions, the energy stored as foodstuffs that the Youth Ambassadors have been known to eat, gummy bears, will be demonstrated. Check out the links at the end of this post for the full experiment details!

  • Chemistry Lab - Gummy Bear Experiment

» Full experiment report and results
» Dr. Agnes' Chemistry Lab

During the expedition chemistry professor Dr. George Agnes will draw lessons from Salar de Uyuni's unique environment to illustrate fundamental chemistry principles. On a daily basis the i2P team will conduct fascinating chemistry experiments that students following on-line can observe and replicate in their classrooms.

Science Of The Run: Anaerobic Glycolytic Metabolism

Day 4/5 Physiology: Demonstrate the how the anaerobic energy system provides energy to fuel our muscles when we exercise at high intensities. Check out the links at the end of this post for the full experiment details!

Humans are capable of performing amazing feats. Sprinters run down the track with astonishing power and speed; power lifters make hundreds of pounds look like a sack of potatoes; swimmers traverse an entire lake or channel against currents and waves; hurdlers gracefully clear all obstacles in their way; and some basketball players even seem to defy the laws of gravity. And our Youth Ambassadors run across the Altiplano in Bolivia.

All of these activities depend on our muscles. Muscles are incredible structures. They have the ability to change themselves to meet the demands that you impose on them. In order to generate movement muscles have to contract. And to do this they need energy. Lots of energy. Some of our muscle fibers break down sugars like glucose for energy, and they don’t need oxygen to produce energy, hence the reason why they are sometimes called anaerobic, which means “without oxygen”. These fibers are used for short sprints and other high intensity activities.

Today I asked the Youth Ambassadors to run up a steep stretch of road at almost 4000 m elevation. This was incredibly tough and they did a great job pushing themselves to the max. Check out the video below!

We took blood samples before and after they ran up the hill. Below is a picture of me taking a sample from Brandon Sand. You can also see the results of the blood lactate testing.

  • Science Of The Run: Lactic Acid

  • Taking Blood Sample

  • Blood Lactate Test Results

» Full experiment report and results
» Dr. Wells' Science Of The Run

A complex series of metabolic pathways are present in human muscles that break down food to produce energy for different types of muscular activity. Dr. Greg Wells will perform experiments to highlight how our bodies work in high altitude and during long distance endurance running.

Upcoming Experiments

Science projects on this day will be looking at how energy systems are used both by the human body and the natural world.

  • Day 4 Science Preview

Videos and Pics From Day 5

Big spiders, hills and hugs :) Check out footage and pics from Day 5!

  • Day 5 - 38km

  • Day 5

  • Day 5

  • Day 5

  • Day 5

  • Day 5

  • Day 5

  • Day 5

We have a few more Science and Chemistry blog posts coming up this evening so stay tuned to learn about lactic acid and also see what happens when we burn a gummy bear!

Ashley's Q&A Responses

We welcome questions concerning our i2P Expedition Bolivia 2011 from everyone! If you have questions for Ray & the i2P team about their expedition or the chemistry educational program please submit them. We are also happy to entertain questions about i2P Expedition Bolivia Challenge, the education component of our program, or any other i2P activity.

Below are some of Ashley's answers; to view other answers or to ask a question visit the i2P Q&A page!

Question Answer
Hi Ashley Hassard - how is the run going? How is the altitude affecting you? What are the conditions of the run? Does the hotel have a spa? HAHAHA!

Shelley Hassard,

Ashley Hassard:
Hi Mama Haz! When we were at 16,000 ft everybody was starting to feel the effects of altitude sickness. Personally, my symptoms have included dizziness, nausia, and a difficulty when breathing. Unfortunately, mine have been a little more intense and have lasted a little longer than others, but we are taking it day by day, and every day that passes I feel a little bit better. Miss you!

Answered on: Friday May 20 2011
How are you enjoying being in front of the camera and filming everything?! Hope you guys are having fun!!!

Bridget Beury,

Ashley Hassard:
Hi Bridget! Thanks for asking. We are absolutely having loads of fun. We are like one huge family now, and it is like exploring with your best friends. At first having the cameras around was a little strange, but after a while we got pretty used to them being there. It also really helps that the film crew that is here with us are super friendly, and really funny, so they keep us laughing.

Answered on: Friday May 20 2011
How large are the mounds of salt crystals we see in the online image?

David F.,
Park Forest Middle School

Ashley Hassard:
Great question! They were about one meter, or three feet high, and about one meter wide in a cone shape.

Answered on: Friday May 20 2011
Why did your path change at the end of the first day's trip?

Clara ,
Park Forest Middle School

Ashley Hassard:
Hi Clara! Our path changed after our first day run due to the fact that the Salar de Uyuni was flooded with water as a result of some heavy rainfalls.

Answered on: Friday May 20 2011