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Student, professor caught off-guard by chemistry video’s viral nature

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If organic chemistry sounds difficult, students in one lucky Ohio State class can rest assured that they at least have a 100 percent on one of their quizzes.

It happened on Sept. 2, when Christopher Callam, a chemistry professor, led his organic chemistry lecture by discussing acid base chemistry.

In what has become an annual tradition for Callam as a way to engage students while staying somewhat on-topic, he assigned a student to toss a ball, from across a large lecture hall, into a trash can as an opportunity to give everyone in the class a 100 percent on the first quiz.

“I traditionally use a ball to toss into the audience as a proton,” Callam said, explaining whoever catches the ball represents the Bronsted base, and must simulate a reaction by repelling the ball across the room by shooting the ball into the garbage from across the lecture hall.

In the 12 years of the tradition, one student made the shot, but there was no video evidence. To prevent the loss of documentation, Callam encouraged his students to take out their phones and record the shot.

The chosen Bronsted base this year — captured in a viral video that went on to be featured by Buzzfeed, Today and the New York Daily News — was Vinny Forte, a third-year in exploration, who sank the shot from the upper level of seating.

The video was posted on Twitter, where it picked up more than 100,000 retweets.

“A lot of people asked me to pass it off … but I really just stuck to my instinct and just threw it,” Forte told The Lantern. “I was a lacrosse player in high school … and was just doing what anyone else would.”

Forte added that he’s trying not to let video’s viral status go to his head.

Callam said he was caught off-guard by the video’s resulting popularity, though happy with the results.

“The video going viral is very unexpected,” said Callam. “I’m happy that we have received such positive feedback about chemistry courses.”

Though he didn’t make the shot, Callam said he’s received emails from alumni sharing their memories of his chemistry class as a result of the video’s popularity.

Callam said he plans weeo continue the tradition next year.

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