I had my defining group-project experience senior year of high school, in Mr. deGroot’s chemistry class. We were given group assignments once every few weeks, and the groups were either randomly populated, or I wasn’t forthright enough to pick one I wanted to be in. (I can see high-school-age Kris wanting desperately to be in a group with the girl I had a crush on, but never saying anything.)
The experiment involved titrating caffeine out of a solution — probably coffee or soda — and seeing how much of it we could extract. It was a five-day lab, Monday through Friday.
I was the best pourer and estimator in the group by a longshot, and group projects always devolved into watch-me-do-everything projects, because I didn’t want an F. Monday through Thursday involved preparing the solutions, balancing the equation. I remember we used 1,1,1-trichloroethane, because I liked its name. Friday’s part of the experiment was taking the filtered solution and using a centrifuge to separate the caffeine out. Then we’d measure the amount and our grade was based on how much we managed to get.
Friday, I was out sick. I got a cold or something, something bad enough that my mom kept me home.
Monday morning I went to chemistry class, and asked how much we ended up with.
“None,” they said.
“How did we get no caffeine after all that?”
“Maybe we got some, but we didn’t find out. We put too much into the centrifuge and it caught fire.”
We all got an F.