To tell our story for this Kickstarter project, we really have to start in Christmas of 1959. Like many young scientists of the time, I received a Gilbert Chemistry set. This chemistry set provided me hours of great fun and learning as well as laying the foundation for my future as a research chemist. As I became an adult I wanted to share these types of experiences with my daughter, my nephews and nieces, and friends. But soon I became aware real chemistry sets were no longer available. Without real chemistry sets and opportunities for students to learn and explore, where would our future chemists come from? So .... I set out on a mission. Nine years ago, my wife and I acted on that mission and opened our science store, H.M.S. Beagle:
to provide young scientists (and adults!) an opportunity to explore real science. At H.M.S. Beagle, a young scientist can buy chemicals, professional quality lab supplies and equipment to explore chemistry, physics, astronomy, and more! Our primary customers are families with children who have an interest in science and technology. We give the kids and their parents (and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings and friends) a place where they can find things to help build and keep their interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), but being an artist myself, we also included the "A" for "art", especially as it relates to the other four areas, or "STEAM." At The Beagle, we especially enjoy our kids' science club for students form kindergarten to eighth grade.
At our Saturday morning meetings, club members explore a full range of science topics, from paleontology and astronomy to chemistry and robotics. We have watched our science club members move on to higher studies and careers in science and engineering we believe, in part, because of their Science Club experiences. We also are the main sponsor for Make: KC the family oriented maker/hacker organization in the Kansas City. . We also hold monthly star parties April through October, and we have an adult science club, the Beagle Society. Our numerous workshops cover robotics, rockets, astronomy, chemistry, perfumery, precious metal recovery and refining, fossil preparation, field trips to dig dinosaurs, and so much more. Before opening H.M.S. Beagle, I built custom-made chemistry sets, combining chemistry with my woodworking skills. Ever since opening The Beagle, I have wanted to be able to offer these custom-made, heirloom sets. Every week we get calls and questions about real chemistry sets, and even the people who bought my early sets have asked if they are still available. I have been able to build a few, but not enough to satisfy the demand and meet our mission to provide the sets to a larger audience.
So .. enter the Kickstarter opportunity: I have designed a new set that can be cut out on a CNC router and quickly hand assembled and finished (complete with the shiny brass hardware and the exotic wood inlays of my original sets). In addition to building the beautiful, custom heirloom box for the chemistry set, I synthesize, purify, and/or formulate and package all of the chemicals.
The equipment is personally selected for the home experimenter. Please read each pledge level carefully...some levels are stand alone levels, while others build upon some of the preceding levels.
Important notes about the equipment and chemicals offered in this project: The selection of chemicals in this set matches those originally offered by the A.C. Gilbert company from the 1920s through the 40s. We understand the hesitancy of some parents to allow their children to have access to certain chemicals and while every chemical we offer is safe when handled properly we will offer those who have pledged at those levels, where appropriate, to request substitutes for any given chemical or chemicals. We stand ready to make suggestions for proper substitutes which will allow the experimenter to make use of the supplied manuals, experiments and demonstrations. Each chemical has a QR code on its label that links directly to its particular Safety Data Sheet on our web site (http://www.hms-beagle.com/beagle_msds.html). We are committed to safety and stand ready to provide advice when asked.
Regarding equipment, while we have shipped custom chemistry sets (both chemicals and equipment) to customers in each of the 50 states for the past 10 years it needs to be noted that some states do frown on its citizens owning chemical glassware. We recommend that if this is a concern to you that you contact your state and/or local authorities to ascertain what may be allowed.
With your support, we will be able to keep the complete set's price at, or below, what the original sets sold for 9 and 10 years ago. We have scores of customers who compliment us on our store and our mission and what we offer the community, but a business can only rely on "good will" for so long. Your participation in our "Heirloom Chemistry Set Project" here on Kickstarter will help ensure that The Beagle continues on while also helping get some really fine chemistry sets into the hands of all those young scientists and those adults wanting to relive their childhood experiences or want to delve deeper into chemistry!
Notes on Pledge Level Rewards and our Kickstarter Goals
Now that we've reached and exceeded our initial goal we are adding to the rewards for the pledge levels above the initial $7.00 level. Each level above the initial one will receive a *.jpg of the up-to-date, personalized Periodic Chart of the Elements along with the other rewards in the given pledge level. So, for instance, the reward for $25.00 pledge level for the Spit Fire kit will now include the personalized Periodic Chart. Additionally, the CD-ROM that is included with the Legacy Plus Chemicals Kit will have additional PDFs of vintage chemistry texts added. As our success grows I intend to adding more rewards to some or all of the existing pledge levels.
Our plan, if we exceed $90K (3X our goal) is to purchase and install eyewash, drench shower stations and equipment in our shop to expand our chemistry classes and workshops for our Science Club members and adults. Currently we are restricted to only demonstrations where the participants can't actually...participate!
If we exceed our goal by 4X ($120K) we will be able to expand our lecture and meeting space within the building we now occupy. This will allow us to expand our "Science Academy" offering science classes for students, adults AND teachers. We have so many requests from teachers to offer classes to help them expand their STEM activities. In addition, because we have heard from our project backers who have suggested this, we will acquire video equipment that will allow us to produce, record and distribute videos and Skype sessions of chemical and other demonstrations as well as post them on-line for those supporters who do not live near the HMS Beagle. We agree that this will greatly expand our programs and those supporters who will receive the chemicals, equipment and chemistry sets, as well as the complete Heirloom Set, can view specific demos making use of the glassware, equipment and chemicals they received.
When we meet or exceed the $90K level, everyone who pledges at the $225 level and above will receive will receive a one-tenth, gram-atomic weight bottles of three different chemical element samples not currently in any of the rewards offered. One of our supporters had suggested a "bottle of mercury", instead of a t shirt, and while this might be wholly appropriate for most adults it certainly would not be for children. The element samples will be selected by myself and will include two metals and one non-metal (e.g. chromium, silicon and aluminum). Since we currently offer numerous element samples to collectors and we think this will encourage more people to become element collectors.
When we meet or exceed the $120K level, everyone who pledges at the $500 or $900 level or above will, in addition, receive the three different, one-tenth, gram-atomic weight bottles of chemical element samples (as mentioned above) and bottles of three different, additional chemical salts not currently included in any of the rewards. I will personally select these salts (based upon consultation with each of the reward recipients to determine what will be appropriate). The Heirloom Chemistry Set has enough room in its three drawers for a total of 108 bottles of BenchMark chemicals (our own in-house brand), so there will still be plenty of room to add more chemicals, including element samples, in the future.
Risks and challenges
Our project's greatest challenge to completing and launching this project has been producing the actual sets' boxes exactly to my specifications. It has taken us almost a full year to convert drawings to computer readable files and finally to go from computer drawings to a tangible object. This was done using a large CNC router to cut multi-ply Baltic birch plywood.
The components of the chemistry set are taken directly from our science store, the H.M.S. Beagle and/or are manufactured directly in my own laboratory and workshop. I produce and package all of the chemicals contained in the chemistry set and will continue to produce and package replacement chemicals as well as adding new ones to our product line every week or so.
The issue of safety and appropriateness is also a concern. My experience for more than 10 years selling home hobby chemicals and chemistry sets, as well as my experience for more than 50 years a chemist, has made me fully aware of safety when it comes to chemistry sets. Just like all chemistry sets, the Heirloom Chemistry Set is not for use (1) by children under the age of 9, (2) by children without proper adult supervision, or (3) by children who cannot read English.
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