DIY Project: Homemade Glow Sticks

     I absolutely hated every science class I ever took. However, since the point of this assignment was to step outside of your comfort zone and do something you wouldn’t normally do, I chose to do a scientific experiment and create my own glow sticks. I was a little nervous when I heard chemicals would be involved: “isn’t that dangerous?!” I was also nervous that I wouldn’t be able to make anything actually glow, but I began the project blindly with no experience and high hopes.

I started with a general Google search and also did a YouTube search. I tried clicking on links from the initial search which inevitably led me to other links on those pages. I tried a number of different search topics, such as “homemade glow stick” and “glow stick ingredients.” I looked at a total of about 20-30 tutorials, but they were all pretty much the same so I chose 4 that I felt were a good sample. I used 1 video, 1 blog post, and 2 how-to articles.

I decided against trying one of my tutorials because all of the ingredients were chemicals that, after some research, I learned would have to be special ordered. It was an article on a how-to website and the author was listed as a “repeat contributor.” It seemed like a legitimate recipe and a professional website, but without trying the experiment I have no idea how credible it actually was. I decided to try the other 3, all of which involved easily-obtained items such as hydrogen peroxide, matches, bleach, and Mountain Dew (I drink Mountain Dew often so I was suddenly nervous about what kind of glowing chemicals I’d been ingesting!). I followed the first two tutorials step-by-step and both failed to produce a glowing substance. One was a video and the other a blog post. Both authors were only cited by usernames and content could have been uploaded to the sites by anyone. Thus, these tutorials were not credible. I tried the third in frustration and it worked! However, I feel as though it was a cop out since one of the steps was to actually cut open a glow stick and pour the contents into the mixture. Regardless, I was still satisfied with the glowing substance even though I had obviously cheated because of my previous failures. This how-to article was on a chemistry website and written by a Ph.D., and therefore the most credible.

I learned that, for me, the best type of tutorials are the ones that are simple texts. Although I am a visual learner, I found it difficult to follow the video tutorials because they move too fast. I either had to pause them after each step or rewind them over and over again. I especially like the textual tutorials that were divide into numbered, step-by-step directions and accompanied by photos. These were the easiest to follow and the least frustrating. Overall, I learned not to trust every tutorial, especially on websites with user generated content, and to read through reviews and/or comments on the tutorials before trusting them to work.

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