Chemistry Made Cool

Once a year, National Chemistry Week engages chemists in face-to-face dialogue with the community. The W.M. Keck Science Department participates in the San Diego section of the American Chemical Society’s ChemExpo. It has become a great opportunity to teach young people the importance of chemistry in their daily lives and highlight the roles that chemists play in our community. The Oct. 27 event provided an opportunity for Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps College students to engage in service learning, which provided hands-on training in preparing for public outreach.

Kayla A. Kaiser, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of chemistry for the W. M. Keck Science Department of Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College, and Scripps College, says she is always impressed by the level of engagement and commitment our students demonstrate. “I could not have facilitated our booth or stage presentation without their help and support.”

This year, 952 San Diego school children from 28 area schools attended, receiving extra credit for participating in hands-on demonstration tables, watching stage presentations, and talking to the scientists themselves.

The W.M. Keck Science Department’s hands-on table hosted everyday applications of nanotechnology, both old and new. Nanoparticle stained glass (Gold nanoparticles have been around for over 1,000 years) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs have been used for 50 years) were available at the table. Spectroscopy and color were discussed, as well as wave-behavior of light, including transmission, absorption, and scattering.

The department’s stage presentation emphasized the role of nanotechnology in clothing and everyday household applications, and was appropriately titled, The Nano Fashion Show. Volunteers from the audience were invited to model the accessories, created to connect macro- and nano- behavior. Watch the video