Explaining the Mysteries of Common Events: Acid/Base Chemistry

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Two Sections Available to Choose From:

Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - July 14, 20216/28 - 7/142 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineLeonard Sprague
July 26, 2021 - August 11, 20217/26 - 8/112 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineLeonard Sprague

Course Description

What makes a lemon sour, and our coffee bitter? How do giant sinkholes appear? And how did they get that red stain out of your white shirt? Throughout the day, acid/base chemistry drives many events, with a variety of results. In this 2-week course, we will aim to understand the principles behind acid/base chemistry, from technical know-how to conceptualization and questioning, in order to understand how and why these common events happen.

This asynchronous/synchronous modular course will begin with a brief discussion of the origins of acid/base reactions (how they were originally described), and move into Arrhenius, Bronsted-Lowry, and Lewis acid/base theories. Following this groundwork, we will explore the techniques commonly used when working with acids and bases, and discuss acid/base reactions in common everyday events. Video lectures (synchronous, and pre-recorded asynchronous viewing) will introduce new information prior to application in “mini-experiments” and practice problems. Prior to the lectures, readings and discussion board prompts will be given to prepare for the lecture material, alongside opportunities to submit questions to be addressed.

Within each course module, lectures will be paired alongside instructional and/or interactive "benchtop" chemical reaction(s) in which physical properties are demonstrated – these are described as “mini-experiments,” and require a written mini-report describing what was learned or observed. Mini-experiments will cover pH, dissociation constants, and interpretation of common visual identifiers and graphics related to this field, in order to prepare students for upcoming college coursework. Some experiments will include do-it-yourself (DIY) projects that can be done with common housewares or given supplies to achieve a greater in situ understanding of acids and bases. Students will gain a virtual introduction to manual and automatic pH equipment, UV-vis spectroscopy (for color change verifications), laboratory glassware (e.g. volumetric pipets and flasks) and safety practices.

Discussion prompts will supplement all the aforementioned materials, to allow for students to problem solve and investigate different types of acid/base chemistry, ranging from lecture and mini-experiment details to broader acid/base applications.

By the end of the course, students will be able to:
• explain common acid/base phenomena
• calculate properties of an acid/base system (pH, dissociation constants, etc...)
• know about some common laboratory equipment, both glassware, and electronic instrumentation, specifically for acid/base systems
• develop critical thinking techniques for approaching problems from a chemical perspective, preparing them for future studies in chemistry or related endeavors

Prerequisites: Prior general chemistry courses will allow for easier assimilation of course material, but is not required. A crash course introducing chemical elements, their constituents (protons, neutrons, electrons), and how chemical reactions are usually illustrated will be available alongside alternative resources. Algebra is highly recommended.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBI0801

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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