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Marathon organizes chemistry day for Scouts

In one of several experiments, Marathon chemical engineer Norm Goddard of Woodbury explained why onions taste sweeter and sweeter as they are heated to members of Boy Scout Troop 55 in Cottage Grove and Troop 83 in St. Paul Park. "Onions contain thiosulfates and carbohydrates," he said. "Cooking onions releases the thiosulfates and further cooking breaks down the carbohydrates to fructose and glucose to produce carmelized or sweet onions." (Bulletin photo by Toni Lambert)

More than 120 Boy Scouts from troops in the East Metro spent most of a Saturday in late February completing the requirements for a Chemistry Merit Badge -- all thanks to the engineers and chemists at Marathon Petroleum's St. Paul Park Refinery.

The refinery hosted the event as part of its ongoing community outreach program, according to Kara Klink, community relations coordinator. "The day was suggested by one of our employees who is the leader of a Scout troop," she said. "By setting up six experiments, the Scouts were able to complete all the requirements by the end of the day."

"It was a great hands-on experience for our Scouts," said Dan Weldon, parent volunteer with Troop 777, which meets at Cottage Grove United Church of Christ. "Plus, they get a tour of the plant and the laboratory."

Prior to arriving at the refinery, Scouts were sent the Scout Chemistry Merit Badge book and given a list of questions to answer, Klink said. "They had homework to do before we saw them."

On arrival at Marathon, Scouts broke into groups and rotated through various activities related to completing their merit badge. Those activities included a tour of the refinery and laboratory, discussions related to safe handling and environmental impacts of chemicals, experiments showing chemical reactions of metals, behavior of compressible gases and effects of heat on molecular properties.