By Alannah Kavanagh
Dressed in a white lab coat and safety goggles, Jordan Hilkowitz looks into the camera and greets his viewers.
“Hello everyone, it’s Dr. Mad Science here and this film is used with milk and soap!”
He picks up a glass of milk and pours it into a bowl, instructing his viewers to wait until the milk bubbles have popped before they proceed.
Next, he squeezes as much food colouring as he can into the milk, dips a Q-tip in soap and then places it in the centre of the bowl. The colours displace and mix together, creating a tie-dye like effect.
This wraps up yet another experiment for Dr. Mad Science.
Hilkowitz was diagnosed with autism when he was 18-months old. Still, this hasn’t stopped the now 11-year-old from pursuing his love for science. Twenty-seven videos and over six million views later, he has become an internet star.
“It’s just all cool, all the chemical reactions household products form,” he said.
As he began to try other at-home experiments, he discovered what would later become his YouTube alter ego – Dr. Mad Science. With the help of longtime babysitter Tracy Leparulo, a recent Ryerson graduate, Jordan started a channel.
“Jordan always had a passion for science since the day I met him,” said Leparulo. “We went online and we noticed that most science experiments required really complicated chemicals, so we decided, why don’t we make our own videos that use household products?”
Hilkowitz’s favourite experiment is mixing Coca-Cola and Mentos, which causes an explosion.
It was through Leparulo that Hilkowitz became involved in the Ryerson community. She was the former president of her chapter of Students in Free Enterprise, now renamed Enactus. Enactus is a group of Ryerson student business leaders that help budding entrepreneurs.
Since Hilkowitz posted his first video nearly two years ago, the channel has earned him over $12,000. It’s his dream to study at Ryerson once he graduates high school.
Jordan met with Ryerson president, Sheldon Levy, while doing a demonstration at a science fair to chat about his YouTube career and future endeavours.
Stacey Hilkowitz, Jordan’s mother, said that their family has been very blessed by the Ryerson community.
“It’s kind of our home, we wouldn’t be strong like we are now without the support from Ryerson,” said Stacey.
Dr. Mad Science has given Jordan a following. He gets invited to street festivals around Toronto, where he does experiments and holds meet-and-greets.
Stacey said that before the channel, Jordan had a stuttering problem but now he speaks clearer and his confidence has gone up.
“He has made friends because he tells people about his channel. It really takes the pressure off when kids come to him,” she said.
Stacey knows that many adults don’t understand the challenges of raising an autistic child. There was a poem written by Emily Perl Kingsley called “Welcome to Holland” that Stacey uses to explain what it’s like. It’s about the journey of a pregnant woman who plans to go to Italy, but upon giving birth the nurse says “Welcome to Holland.”
“You argue and say, ‘No I’m going to Italy,'” Stacey says. “But, the nurse insists you’re in Holland. Once you aren’t angry anymore, you realize Holland is a beautiful place.”