West Virginia University celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Land-Grant Act with a day of fun, snacks, and fascinating facts at the Family Day at the Farm on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. The Appalachian Hardwood Center and Wood Science and Technology program hosted a station that provided hands on activities for visitors of all ages.
Drs. Shawn Gurshecky and David Devallance showcased a testing rig that let visitors guess and then experimentally break different species of wood to help understand some of the different properties of wood. Most everyone underestimated the amount of force a beam would hold before breaking as well as the amount of stress that a small thin piece of wood veneer would take before ripping apart. Dr. Ben Spong led the other activity that provided sticks of white oak and red oak that were dipped in bubble solution to illustrate how wood cells are similar to straws. All trees are different, with some adapting their structure to prevent water loss by naturally plugging some of the straws in their structure (white oak) and others that do not like red oak. By blowing through the stick, you can figure out if it's red oak or white oak by looking for the huge number of bubbles that form!