From the "Lincoln Courier" July 15, 2011

'Nitro Joe' dazzles

Demonstrates the wonders of air at LPL

By Jean Ann Miller

Posted Jul 15, 2011 @ 06:01 AM

Nitro Joe at Lincoln

Science was the topic of Thursday’s summer reading program segment at the annex of Lincoln Public Library.

“Nitro Joe Science” was on hand to give kids a lesson in air and what you can do with air pressure.

Joe Higgs of St. Louis is “Nitro Joe,” and his goal was simple: to teach basic science.

“You can’t see air, but you can use it,” said Higgs to a roomful of elementary school-aged children eager to see what they could do with air.

Warning that science is not magic, he  turned two pieces of rope into a box of Tide laundry detergent.

 “Magic is about tricking people and science is based on fact,” said Higgs with a smile.


“Nitro Joe Science” demonstrates the wonders of air and air pressure to a group of elementary school-aged children at Lincoln Public Library Thursday. Photo by Jean Ann Miller/The Courier

Higgs talked to the kids about air pressure and gave an example of how it works when riding to the top of a hill in the car or even riding on a plane and experiencing a popping in their ears due to a change in air pressure.

He also talked about air pressure when dealing with a hot air balloon, but used a plastic bag as the example and a heat gun to warm the air inside the bag.

“If you notice, when air gets hotter it expands,” said Higgs.
When two volunteers holding the bag let go, it slowly drifted toward the ceiling.

Nitro Joe then explained the Bernoulli’s principle, which helped the audience members understand how an airplane flies. For this example, he brought out a vortex ring and created tornado donuts from slicing the air.

The level of excitement inside the library was audible when Nitro Joe brought out a roll of toilet paper along with a leaf blower and explained more about vortexes.

“The power of the leaf blower creates a vortex,” said Higgs as he shot the toilet paper into the air and aimed it toward where the students were sitting.

He next showed the attendees an air cartridge that was filled with carbon dioxide.

“This cartridge has enough to fill 25 balloons,” said Higgs.
He used the cartridge to demonstrate the power of air pressure and showered with an explosion of confetti.

“It’s nothing more than science,” he said.


From the "Olney Daily Mail" June 18, 2009

Nitro Joe gives peek at science behind the magic

By Kevin Ryden
Thu Jun 18, 2009, 04:32 PM CDT

Olney, Ill. -
At the beginning of a science show Wednesday afternoon at Olney Public Library, Joseph "Nitro Joe" Higgs told the many children in the audience he has three strict "golden rules" of science and included: "No talking when I'm talking," "Don't touch my stuff" and "Have fun!"

Have fun they did during Nitro Joe's show, which mixed entertainment and educational lessons. On his business card, Nitro Joe, who is from St. Louis, dubs himself as an "Edu-tainer."

He began by explaining that he does not perform magic tricks, but shows the science behind tricks, such as paper going up in flames and then seemingly disappearing. However, the "paper" was actually something magicians call "flash paper," which emits light and heat but not smoke and ashes. Those four properties are present during a chemical change, he said.

Nitro Joe spoke in a booming, authoritative and sometimes silly voice to get his point across. He also used some cool props.


The power of dry ice, which has a temperature of -109.3 degrees and can freeze fingers in 2 seconds, was shown. Nitro Joe asked the curious crowd who wanted their nose to be put on the ice. As he jokingly moved with the ice toward the audience, many of the children scooted back.

Instead, he used a quarter, and said George Washington would use his nose. The quarter shook in the dry ice and it froze to its surface.

Nitro Joe also discussed the effects of sublimation and carbonation and used a bottle of baby shampoo and carbon-dioxide gas to make bubbles. Children reached out their hands as he walked around the room, passing bubbles through a tube.

"A bubble is nothing more than soap stretched around air," he said.

He also demonstrated the power of air by blowing a leaf blower at children, who squealed and laughed for several minutes.

"All of this is just old-fashioned, basic science," said Nitro Joe at the end of the hour-long program. "We're just looking at in a different way."

Kevin Ryden can be reached at


Decatur-Macon County Fair - June 9-14, 2009

This was my first county fair, and I must say that it was an experience.

It was a great experience for everyone who had an opportunity to experience the kind of fun science can engender.

(Photo by Mike Patton)

A little slime on the nose is something that few kids, like Hannah, will ever forget.


From the "Collinsville Herald" Jan. 28, 2008

It’s not magic, it’s science!

Monday, January 28, 2008 8:50 AM CST

 The students at Nelson Elementary School may have thought they were witnessing a magic show Tuesday, but Joseph “Nitro Joe” Higgs was actually performing science experiments.

“The whole goal is for the kids to see that science is a lot of fun and these are eye-popping, interesting things that they can do,” Higgs said. “(Science) seems boring because there’s a lot of book work, but this is the end result. This is the ooh and aah factor. You always want the oohs and the aahs.”


Marissa Vickers photo Joseph “Nitro Joe” Higgs demonstrates science experiments at Nelson Elementary School.

 The entire presentation kept the children captivated, and they seemed to especially enjoy the experiment Higgs calls “water into juice.” He used three clear chemicals – sodium hydroxide, phenolphthalein and vinegar.  Higgs said the phenolphthalein is a base indicator that turns purple in the presence of a base, which is the sodium hydroxide. After he mixes the two together he adds the vinegar, a strong acid that neutralizes the base, to make the liquid turn clear again.

Higgs, who actually studied theater and graduated with a degree in communications, has been doing the science assemblies for school-aged children since 2002.

“I’ve been doing (science) since before I could drive and what I really wanted to do is speak, like motivational type speaking,” Higgs said.

He began doing scientific presentations when he was just 13 years old and even worked at the St. Louis Science Center.

Higgs works for [REMOVED]*, a company that offers school assemblies, summer camps and after-school programs based on science. He started with the company after seeing an advertisement and thinking it was a phenomenal idea, he said.

“I’ve been doing something like this for quite some time,” Higgs said. “What I do is I do a science assembly on any number of topics. I have three main shows with three different topics.”

The students at Nelson Elementary School attended “[REMOVED]*,” in which he conducts experiments that deal with physical and chemical changes.

The other two shows are “[REMOVED]*” and “[REMOVED]*.” Higgs said he uses dry ice as one of the main elements in the former presentation, as well as different experiments with fire. The latter deals with “air, air pressure, wind flows and things of that nature,” he said.

The various assemblies are offered to kindergartners through 12th-graders.

“I don’t change the topic for the grade, I change the vocabulary,” Higgs said. “You can teach mathematics to a kindergartner or to a 12th-grader -- you still have to add, subtract, multiply and divide -- but I use more vocabulary and I explain more” to the older kids.

Higgs said another reason why he loves doing the assemblies is because it raises awareness about subjects that aren’t as popular as they once were.

“Things like engineering, research, basic physics aren’t talked about that much, but science is on a big push. In the ’50s and ’60s it was big – everyone wanted to be an engineer, everyone wanted to be an astronaut. The mindset and the concepts are different now,” Higgs said.

“I didn’t stop taking science classes” in college, Higgs said. “I still took advanced physics, advanced biology, advanced chemistry. Calculus isn’t an elective for most people, but it was for me.”


* Removed at the request of my previous employer.