Even if you don’t watch a lot of beauty pageants, you can probably guess that when Miss Vermont took the stage in Atlantic City on September 10 during the Miss America preliminary rounds and announced she was going to perform “a science experiment of epic proportions,” something a bit different was going on.
“I will be the first to do a science experiment on the Miss America stage,” she told NJ Advance Media in an interview, before she unveiled her talent in front of a cheering crowd.
After a perky monologue explaining that “science is all around us,” she reminds the audience that “science can be messy — so don’t try this at home.”
Then she puts on her goggles — safety first! — and mixes hydrogen peroxide, potassium iodide, and soap in a few beakers. The stage-worthy result:
Miss Vermont’s experiment, a popular one in introductory chemistry classes, is commonly known as “Elephant’s Toothpaste.” The potassium iodide speeds up the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, which rapidly breaks down into oxygen and water. The water foams up the soap, and the oxygen shoots it up out of its container. All those colours you see are just food colouring, added for extra pizzazz.
For Miss Vermont, 24, whose real name is Alayna Westcom, the performance is more than just a stunt. Westcom’s platform for the pageant is “Success Through STEM.”
Her undergraduate degree is in forensics, and she completed a three-semester post-baccalaureate in in medical laboratory science. According to Seven Days, Vermont’s alt-weekly publication, Westcom “works … at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans and as an autopsy technician for Vermont’s chief medical examiner in Burlington.” Ultimately, Seven Days reported, she’d like to go to medical school and become a medical examiner herself.
As the reigning Miss Vermont, she also visits schools throughout the state to promote an interest in STEM. Her well-practiced Elephant’s Toothpaste is apparently popular with the kids she visits, too.
“For so many years when I was going to school and choosing a STEM career, I’d always been told, ‘You don’t look like a scientist,'” she told Seven Days.
Now she’s trying to prove the haters wrong.
Watch Miss Vermont’s full presentation below.
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