Outreach and Education Division

    The EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIVISION supports chemistry education at all levels, including K-12, college, and adult/continuing education. It maintains liaisons to the Chicago Public Schools and the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT). The Division engages the general public in chemistry-related educational activities, participates in ACS activities at the annual Illinois State Fair, and publicizes all events and news-related content. The division oversees the annual Project SEED program for the Section as well as the Project SEED scholarships. The Division also assists public officials and other community bodies concerning chemistry-related matters. The Education and Outreach Division includes the Education, Outreach, Project SEED, and Public Affairs Committees.

    The EDUCATION COMMITTEE provides chemistry-related educational programs and information to learners of all ages and actively engages with educators at the pre-K-12 and college levels. Subcommittees include:

    • AACT Liaison
    • College Education Subcommittee
    • Continuing Education Subcommittee
    • Chicago School Board Liaison
    • K - 12 Education Subcommittee


    The PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE ensures that section members and public officials and bodies are informed of matters where the knowledge and practice of chemistry is of substantial public importance. These matters can include government issues, environmental issues and the social responsibility of chemists. The Public Affairs Committee gives the Public Affairs Award biennially.

    The OUTREACH COMMITTEE engages the general public, educators and children in chemistry-related educational activities and participates in many different types of events around the greater Chicago area.   Subcommittees include:

    • Community Activities Subcommittee
    • Illinois State Fair Subcommittee


    PROJECT SEED COMMITTEE identifies interested low-income and/or minority high school junior and senior students who are interested in participating in a paid summer research experience with  a college or university faculty member.  It supports financial and logistical concerns for the student/ faculty relationships and communicating  relevant program information to the national ACS organization.  The committee is also responsible for distributing Project SEED awards to support the internships. 

    Helium vs. Air Balloons

    Kids, did you ever notice that helium balloons made using a regular balloon (not a Mylar balloon), do not last very long?   This column provides a way to measure the diffusion of helium out of a balloon, and compare the results to a balloon filled with air.

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    You'll need a package of regular balloons, a helium gas source, a yardstick, and a tank of water large enough to hold a submerged balloon (a bathtub might work).   Blow up three balloons with air and three balloons with helium, all to approximately the same size.   Measure their volume by submerging each one into the tank of water, and measuring the "displacement".   This means that you'll measure the height of the water before the balloon is added, again after it is submerged, and subtract to get the result.

    Then measure the heights again after predetermined amounts of time, such as every few hours, until you see no change in the measurements (the balloon has deflated).   Plot your results of water height vs. time.   The idea is to see which balloon diffuses the gas it is holding more quickly.   The answer is that, since the helium molecules are smaller than air molecules, helium should diffuse out faster.   You could also test different brands of balloons to do a comparison.

    What do the results tell you about regular balloons and Mylar balloons?   Both are made of polymers, but the spaces between the individual chains of molecules (polymer chains) are quite different.   Mylar is an exceptionally strong polyester, while many regular balloons are made of latex.


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    June 2003


    Reference:   This activity came to us courtesy of Ms. Adrian Winans, who performed this as a fourth-grade science fair project.