Chemistry meets fashion over Bunsen burner at Georgia high school

Chemistry meets fashion over Bunsen burner at Georgia high school

December 18th, 2013 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Southeast Whitfield High School fashion class and chemistry class students work on a project that looks at how natural fibers and man made fibers compare in strength, absorbency, resistance to chemical damage and flame Tuesday. The students, from left, are Brittany Sandobal, Lindsey Grant, Jaymian Lambert, Caty Zander, Kelly Hall and Skyla Buhl.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


• Jute

• Polyester

• Wool

• Cotton

• Olefin

• Acetate

• Silk

• Linen

• Rayon

• Acrylic with polyester backing

Source: Southeast Whitfield High School science and marketing departments

DALTON, Ga. - In a chemistry lab at Southeast Whitfield High School, fabrics of fashion met their fates on Tuesday in test tubes and over Bunsen burners.

"Is that one melting?" Annyelli Rosas queried excitedly as a test tube heated and foamed.

"It's bleach and wool," Gustavo Ramirez answered.

The two sophomores were among about four dozen students in science teacher Anthony Hall's chemistry class and marketing teacher Sheila Hudson's fashion marketing class. They were working together on a joint project to compare strength, absorbency and resistance to chemicals and flame of almost a dozen man-made and natural fabrics.

"Fashion marketing students gets carried away with the glitz and the glamour," Hudson said. There's science behind fashion, she said, and the idea is important for students looking to find a job in fashion and marketing, even when it lands them in the carpet industry that is the lifeblood of Whitfield County.

"What fabrics should I look at using in a basketball uniform?" she said. "If I'm creating a uniform to be used by mechanics at Shaw Industries, what fabrics should I use to protect that individual's skin?"

Current trends in fashion clothing have a "trickle-down effect" into floor covering trends, she said.

Hall said his science students are being introduced to conducting tests applied to a field not usually associated with a chemistry lab.

"We can take this and use this in application," he said of how the test results will be used next semester to apply findings to scientific theories. Collaboration among classes in the science department is common, but not so much with classes like fashion marketing, he said.

"The chemistry students will find this as interesting as the fashion students, because they're not normally exposed to the consumer end, whereas the fashion students are not exposed to the scientific end," Hudson said.

Fashion marketing sophomores Tara Bingham and Emily Edwards noted that silk and linen in their line of test tubes changed colors when exposed to strong base liquid bleach and acidic vinegar.

Their teammate Ashley Trollinger, a sophomore in the chemistry class, laughingly remarked that she'd be interested in clothes made of the two fabrics "as long as it didn't get vinegar and bleach on it."

The project was made possible through a $300 grant from the Whitfield Education Foundation, foundation member Mary Ellen Kinsey said.

"Look how engaged they are and they're excited and learning," Kinsey said. "These are the kind of things they'll never forget, and that's what our grant program is all about: innovative teaching."

After blazing up 10 or 11 different fabrics in a Bunsen burner, freshman fashion student Kelly Hall and sophomore chemistry student Caty Zander cheered the joint project.

"It's cool that we get to do hand-on stuff like this," Kelly said.

"It's really interesting with both of the subjects combining," Caty said. "You get a feel for what it's like in the fashion industry."

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.