A Pekin junior high school’s students learned in general Thursday why the world’s oceans are turning more acidic and glimpsed a possible future of vehicles powered by non-polluting energy.

They also were introduced to nucleation, the formal term for what happens when Mentos are tossed into a two-liter bottle of soda. The rapid geyser measured a good 12 feet.

One Broadmoor Junior High School student neatly summarized his lesson from a demonstration presented by Bradley University’s Chemistry Club.

“Things go boom,” said eighth-grader Peyton Pier.

He and fellow Broadmoor students discovered more than that in the demonstration in which the workings of gas mixtures and varied energy levels of light were revealed.

“You can tell your parents you learned something about quantum mechanics today,” said Dean Campbell, a Bradley professor and faculty advisor to the university’s Chemistry Club.

Assistant Principal Jonathon Kingdon told the students gathered in the school’s gym why they were being entertained as well as educated by the presentation.

“We want you to head from Broadmoor to Pekin (Community) High School with an idea, an interest in biology and chemistry” that will enliven their class work, and perhaps influence career choices, he said.

“This isn’t a magic show,” Campbell said before he and graduate student Donnye Schorr began their hour-long presentation.

The two, however, did reveal the chemical realities of some magic-like phenomena, including how oxygen gas and water droplets will flow like slow, thick steam from a container to create the “genie in the bottle” effect. A purple laser, aimed at a specially coated paper placed above a student’s head, gave her the temporary gift of a halo.

Campbell said he and Chemistry Club members have traveled over the past decade to schools and events within an hour’s drive of Peoria to demonstrate chemistry’s working and wonders. “We’ve reached nearly 23,000 customers” in that time, he said.

He acknowledged that one chemical reaction – the Mentos-in-soda trick – remains a wonder to him and many in chemistry’s circles.

“Nobody’s figured it out entirely,” Campbell said. “We’re still arguing about it.”

What is known is the combination causes carbon dioxide in the soda, the chemical that gives it fizz, to condense rapidly in the liquid, creating pressure that shoots the soda from the bottle.

“It goes really flat really fast,” he said.

Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin