Energy and U

Driven by the simple ideas of getting elementary students excited about science and engineering and going to college, the Energy and U Show is a semi-annual event bringing more than 10,000 3rd-6th grade students to the University of Minnesota campus each year.  The shows are designed and developed by faculty in the College of Science and Engineering and the Department of Theater Arts & Dance, and Department of Chemistry Lecture Demonstrations Director, Harrison Frisk.

What will we learn at the show?

Students learn about the 1st Law of Thermodynamics and world energy use. We showcase energy conversions with explosions, bright flashes, and music that gets the audience dancing. Students erupt with excitement when we ignite a six-foot column of methane-filled suds, jump out of their chairs and dance when new energy forms are introduced, and recoil and cheer after a large hydrogen explosion. Before the finale, they yell "No" when asked: 1) Can you create energy? and 2) Can you destroy energy? Throughout the show, students hear messages encouraging them to come to the University, study science and engineering, and work on solving the world's energy problems.

When are the shows?

Energy and U shows for 3rd - 6th graders are scheduled in January and May. There is typically a public show in May as well. Schools are notified in September about the shows and how to register to attend.


The 60-minute show for public school groups is free. We reimburse schools for bus transportation costs. If a school needs additional help, please contact us at

What should we be aware of?

The show is highly sensory and includes loud music, explosions, flashes of light, and strobe lights. Schools must ensure that all teachers and volunteers know about this ahead of time and prepare by bringing ear muffs or sunglasses. Teachers should ensure that the Energy and U logistics coordinator knows about any accessibility issues before coming to the show, such as wheelchairs and vision and hearing impairments.

Behavior Expectations

For the safety and enjoyment of the rest of the audience, students are expected to be respectful of Energy and U staff, volunteers, and audience members.

  1. Teachers and adult chaperones are responsible for monitoring and intervening with student behavior when necessary.
  2. Energy and U staff and volunteers reserve the right to ask audience members to leave the theater if their behavior jeopardizes the safety or integrity of the Energy and U show.
  3. Please ensure that all of the teachers receive a copy of the logistics and are fully aware that there are explosions, loud music, and strobes and bright lights. This is necessary for students with sensory, epilepsy and other neurological issues.
  4. Please review behavior expectations for and with your students. What’s it like to be in a theater? How should they behave? How do you expect them to behave? How can they have a great time, but respect the space, respect other audience members, and respect the presenters.
  5. Presenters will raise their hands when asking students to quiet down for the next lesson or demonstration.

"I teach at a very high needs school on the west side of Saint Paul, and many of my students do not know people other than their teachers who have been to college. On the way there, one of my 3rd grade students asked, 'Why are we going to a university? This isn't for us - I'm not going to go to college.' On the way out, she said, 'I want to be a chemist when I grow up!!' Showing the kids that science has fun, real world applications is the first step in inspiring them. I am so happy that your team planted the seed that she should strive to work hard and do something great  in her life." – Teacher Quote

Energy & U News

Professor Jessica Lamb holds up a drone.

Energy and U eclipses 100,000 student milestone

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (06/09/2023) – It’s official: more than 100,000 students in the Twin Cities metro area have engaged with chemistry through the biannual Energy and U program. With the completion of the May 2023 series, the interactive show surpassed this major education milestone. Read more.

Professors Frank Bates, David Blank,  Marc Hillmyer, and Aaron Massari with their Emmy awards

Four UMN faculty members receive Emmy awards for production role in University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley’s ‘Energía Y TÚ’

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (2/17/2023) – Professors Frank Bates, David Blank, Marc Hillmyer, and Aaron Massari have each received a Lone Star Emmy Award for their respective production roles in University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley’s ‘Energía Y TÚ.’ The show, a Spanish adaptation of the University of Minnesota’s own Energy and U, won the award in the Informational/Instructional – Short Form or Long Form Content category. Read more.