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. 

    Hot Steel Wool

    Kids, what kind of chemical reaction makes heat? Exothermic chemical reactions produce heat. In this reaction vinegar is used to remove the protective coating from steel wool, allowing it to rust. When the iron combines with oxygen in this chemical reaction, heat is released.

    What You Need:

    • Thermometer
    • Jar with Lid
    • Steel Wool
    • Vinegar 

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

    What You Do:

    1. Place the thermometer in the jar and close the lid. Wait about 5 minutes then open the lid and read the thermometer.
    2. Soak a piece of steel wool in vinegar for 1 minute.
    3. Squeeze the excess vinegar out of the steel wool.
    4. Wrap the wool around the thermometer and place the wool/thermometer in the jar, sealing the lid.
    5. Wait 5 minutes then read the temperature and compare it with the first reading.
    6. Chemistry is Fun!


    1. Not only does the vinegar remove the protective coating on the steel wool, but once the coating is removed, the acidity of the vinegar aids in oxidation (rust) of the iron in the steel. The protective layer on spun steel wool fibers is a thin coat of oil.
    2. The thermal energy given off during this chemical reaction causes the fluid in the thermometer to expand and rise up the column of the thermometer tube.
    3. In the rusting of iron, four atoms of solid iron react with three molecules of oxygen gas to form two molecules of solid rust (iron oxide):
                   4 Fe (s) + 3 O2 (g) —> 2 Fe2O3 (s) 


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    March 2010


    References:  Anne Marie Helmenstine’s website at: