The history of “Flogiston”
The earliest evidence of Science Clubs activity at the Faculty of Chemistry can be found in materials from 1915, when teaching in Polish language was renewed at Warsaw University of Technology. The acting supervisor of Science Club of Chemists then was prof. Wojciech Świętosławski, and their main goal was to gather as many books and teaching materials as possible. Besides, many readings, scientific tours to factories and industrial centers were organized by Science Club. Important part of their activity was to represent students business before authorities of Faculty and College.
Science club’s activity was repeatedly suspended and renewed over the years. In current form it was reactivated on 29 May 2001 as the Chemical Scientific Society “Flogiston” and carries on till today. Reactivation was proposed by three students from WUT Faculty of Chemistry: Michał Bieniek, Wojciech Bury i Adam Sobczuk. Prof. Michał Fedoryński was first supervisor of Flogiston as he helped in organizing and leading the Science Club. At the beginning Flogiston’s function was to organize research work for members in research groups at Faculty of Chemistry, tours to chemical factories and scientific conferences. Furthermore they have undertaken conducting teaching surveys concerning about lectures and tutorials. Along with six other Science Clubs Flogiston tied “Science Clubs Agreement” and by means represented Science Clubs and Faculty of Chemistry at Students Parliament of WUT.
The idea of creating and organizing one’s own chemical conference was born as well, which in 2003 resulted in the 1st International Congress of Young Chemists. The conference was held in Zakopane and gathered participants from six European countries (Poland, Sweden, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia). Over time, the conference has gained significance on an international scale and has gathered an increasing number of participants from different countries around the world, at the same time changing the name from the European to the International Congress of Young Chemists in 2006. “YoungChem” has also been repeatedly appreciated by the Student Scientific Movement “StRuNa”, which organizes a contest for the best conference. YoungChem was recognized several times and in 2012 it took the first place.
Starting in 2007, “Flogiston” has also organized a second conference – the Warsaw Diplomats’ Forum “ChemoFor”. It was a one-day conference, addressed to MA students of chemical faculties from Warsaw universities, during which they could present the results of their research in the form of posters. Due to declining interest of the target group, in 2012 the last – 6th edition of “ChemoFor” – took place. Nevertheless, the idea of cooperation between students of different universities did not end with the end of “ChemoFor”. Already a year later the first edition of the next cyclical event organized by “Flogiston” in cooperation with students from various different science clubs of Warsaw universities – Science Festival “Skołowany Weekend” – started. This is an event addressed to primary, middle and high school students, with the goal of popularizing science. Students prepare lectures, workshops and demonstrations in the fields of science that they deal with, in such a way as to convince future students that science can be interesting or even fascinating. Initially, the event was divided into three weeks – separately for each age group, but from the second edition all lectures are held over the duration of one weekend.
Popularizing activities accompany “Flogiston” from the beginning of its existence. In order to do it in the best way, a Demonstration Division was set up, which organizes shows and activities for children and young people, at which interesting and spectacular experiments are presented. “Flogiston” appears in schools and orphanages, at picnics and festivals (including the Science Picnic of Polish Radio (formerly “BIS” Radio), the Small Man’s Science Festival, the Discoverer’s Day in Rzeszów. To reach as many people as possible, the activities of the club are not limited to Poland. It has been a guest several times at The Korea Science Creativity Festival – a science festival organized by KOFAC. “Flogiston” also took part in the campaign organized by the Warsaw University of Technology “Science Clubs Teach in Lithuania”, where three scientific circles from the University carried out different activities for a week in primary school. Reaching the public is also facilitated by mass media, such as the radio and television – “Flogiston” has made numerous appearances on television programs such as “Kawa czy herbata”, “Dzień dobry TVN”, “Telewizyjny Kurier Warszawski”, “Jak to działa?”, and multiple radio broadcasts. Multitude of colors, loud noises, flashes, fumes, and explosions – this certainly attracts attention and is able to incite curiosity, especially when it is efficiently combined and presented in a clear and fun way. Not to mention the opportunity to do something yourself gives children a lot of joy. Such activites are appreciated not only by the small scientists. In 2014, “Flogiston” received a distinction in the competition “Science Promoter” – organized by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the news service Science in Poland of the Polish Press Agency. In 2015, the Polish Chamber of Chemical Industry endowed the club with the title of “Ambassador of Polish Chemistry”.
Due to such a wide activity of the science club, not only the participants of demonstrations and activities, but also the members of “Flogiston” can learn something themselves. While organizing both large and small events, they can acquire a lot of new skills, see many new places, and meet interesting people. However not only hard work gives such opportunities. A good example would be the didactic journey around Europe, which took place in 2015, the main purpose of which was to visit the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). During the trip participants could see for themselves how in practice look and function large industrial installations of leading chemical concerns, such as BASF or Bayer, and how different chemical departments operate in Prague and Munich. Very pleasant part of the trip was the visit at the Cailler chocolate factory in Broc and at the brewery in Pilzno, especially as it was possible to taste the produced products. You can take a lot from such a trip, not only in terms of science, but also because of seeing many beautiful places and getting to know the culture of other countries.
These types of trips have a positive effect on the members of the club – they motivate to further work and give us the chance to get to know each other better and integrate. For this purpose, an integration trip is organized around the beginning of each academic year, during which new studends can get to know older members better and learn from them many things about the activity of “Flogiston”, and all that in a fun atmosphere.
In its activities, “Flogiston” primarily focuses on professionalism and a friendly atmosphere. Just as alchemists used to look for the “spirit” of materials, for many students the spirit of the Chemical Faculty is called Flogiston!