What is Energy and U?

Professor Christy Haynes leads the methane demonstration

Starting with the simple idea of getting elementary students excited about science and engineering and going to college, the free Energy and U Show has developed into a semi-annual event bringing more than 13,000 3rd-6th grade students to the University of Minnesota campus.

What will we learn at the show?

  • Students learn about the 1st Law of Thermodynamics, the scale of world energy use, and the significant energy challenges that we face.
  • There are numerous explosions, bright flashes, and music that gets the students and professors dancing.
  • Most of the demonstrations involve student volunteers.
  • Students erupt when we ignite a six-foot column of methane-filled suds.
  • They jump out of their chairs and dance in the lesson that energy is the ability to do work.
  • They recoil and then cheer after a large hydrogen explosion.
  • They yell "No" when asked at the end of the show 1) Can you create energy? and 2) Can you destroy energy?
  • Students hear messages that they can come to the University, study science and engineering, and work on solving the world's energy problems.

"I wish that every student in Minnesota could see this show."—3rd grade teacher

Questions and Answers about Energy and U

When are the shows?

We conduct 5 to 8 days of shows with two shows per day twice a year—January and May. May shows for students will be conducted on the 17th, 18th, 19th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, and 25th. A public matinee for people of all ages is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday, May 20. Reservations are required and space is limited (reservations for the public show will be available starting, Tuesday, March 29). Please, if you make reservations, but later need to change your plans, please turn your tickets back in so others may use them. Registration for school groups for the 2017 shows is now closed. 

What is the cost?

The 50-minute show for public school groups is free. We reimburse schools up to $3 per student for their bus transportation costs. Registration for the public show in May is $1 per person.

What ages/grade levels is the show geared to?

The show is geared toward students in 3rd grade through 6th grade.

Information about energy fits with science curriculum standards.

Whom do I contact, if interested in the show?

Eileen Harvala

What do I need to be aware of (important information about the show)?

The show is highly sensory, and includes loud music, explosions, flashes of light, and strobe lights.

Ensure that Eileen Harvala, Energy and U logistics coordinator, knows about any accessability issues before coming to the show such as wheelchairs, vision, and hearing.

Where is the show held?

Through a partnership with the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance, the show is held at the Rarig Center, 330 21st Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55455. A map is on the bottom of this page.

Who are the members of the Energy & U team?

The shows are created and performed by faculty members in the College of Science & Engineering and Department of Chemistry Lecture Demonstration Director Joe Franek. Eileen Harvala is communications coordinator for the show and handles arrangements for students coming to the show.

Professor David Blank and Joe Franek, lecture demonstration director, help a student volunteer do an energy experiment.
Professor David Blank (left), Energy and U director, and Joe Franek (right), demonstration director who creates the explosions and interactive demonstrations, help a student volunteer with an experiment focused on how energy is the ability to do work.
  • Professor Frank Bates (Chemical Engineering & Materials Science)
  • Professor David Blank (Chemistry, Director)
  • Professor Cari Dutcher (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Lecture Demonstration Director Joe Franek (Chemistry)
  • Professor Renee Frontiera (Chemistry)
  • Professor Christy Haynes (Chemistry)
  • Professor Marc Hillmyer (Chemistry)
  • Professor Aaron Massari (Chemistry)
  • Professor Sarah Swisher (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Who are our sponsors/supporters?

Energy and U is made possible by the generous donations of our sponsors:

University of Minnesota

  • National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
  • National Science Foundation Center for Sustainable Polymers
  • College of Science & Engineering
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science

Industrial/corporate sponsors

  • Medtronic Corporation
  • Schlumberger
  • John Deere
  • 3M

If you or your organization is interested in becoming a partner with us in this high impact outreach activity for the children of Minnesota, please contact Professor David Blank at 612-624-0571 or blank@umn.edu.

What do people say about the show?

"I teach at a very high needs school on the west side of Saint Paul, and many of my students do not know people other than their teachers who have been to college. On the way there, one of my 3rd grade students asked, "Why are we going to a university? This isn't for us - I'm not going to go to college." On the way out, she said "I want to be a chemist when I grow up!!" Showing the kids that science has fun, real world applications is the first step in inspiring them. I am so happy that your team planted the seed that she should strive to work hard and do something great in her life."

"The show taught the students to our curriculum standards in a format that was engaging and lessons that were easily remembered."

"Students were engaged and excited. They definitely learned a lot."

"Our students loved the show. They want to come again next year. They had more questions after the show and for days following as they talked about it and shared ideas on what they experienced and why."


Rarig Center


    • Energy & U
    • Smith Hall, 207 Pleasant St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
    • Eileen Harvala, Communications Coordinator
    • nrgyandu@umn.edu
    • (612) 624-0831