IMPORTANT NOTE: due to the uncertainty of the Covid-19 virus, the May public show and May shows for school children have been canceled.

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 10,000 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, jump out of their chairs and dance in the lesson that energy is the ability to do work, and they recoil and then cheer after a large hydrogen explosion. Before the finale, they yell "No" when asked: 1) Can you create energy? and 2) Can you destroy energy? In addition, students hear messages that they can come to the University, study science and engineering, and work on solving the world's energy problems.

Energy and U Flyer

Questions and Answers about Energy and U

When are the shows?

Due to the Covid-19 virus, the May public show and shows for school children are canceled.

What is the cost?

The 60-minute show for public school groups is free. We reimburse schools up to $3.50 per student for their bus transportation costs. If a school needs additional help, please contact us at

What ages/grade levels is the show geared to?

The show is geared toward students in 3rd grade through 6th grade. Information about energy used in the show 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 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 Cari Dutcher (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Lecture Demonstration Director Joe Franek (Chemistry)
  • Professor Renee Frontiera (Chemistry)
  • Professor Christy Haynes (Chemistry)
  • Professor James John (Chemistry)
  • Professor Aaron Massari (Director)
  • Professor Lee Penn (Chemistry)
  • Professor Sarah Swisher (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Professor David Blank, Head of the Department of Chemistry, founded the show along with professors Professor Frank Bates from Chemical Engineering & Materials Science and Professor Marc Hillmyer from the Department of Chemistry. Blank was its director for many years. While no longer active presenters, Bates, Blank, and Hillmyer continue to support the show in many ways, including through their departments and research centers.

Who are our sponsors/supporters?

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

University of Minnesota

Industrial/corporate sponsors

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 Aaron Massari at (612) 626-8416 or

Download the Energy and U flyer.

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."

"I wish that every child in Minnesota could see this show."

Send your kids to Energy and U!!! This event started me on the path to a career in science a decade ago. It is phenomenal." Anthony Tabet, Churchill Scholar, Goldwater Scholar, Astronaut Scholar.

Rarig Center


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