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. 

    A Peep Into the Speed of Light

    May, 2015:

    Kids, did you know that you can calculate the speed of light using common materials in your kitchen? The speed of light is 299,792,458 meters per second, or 670,616,629 miles per hour. According to an entertaining NPR video from Skunk Bear, the speed of light is easy to calculate using Peeps® and a microwave oven.

    First, what are microwaves? Microwaves are a type of radiation and, like all radiation, microwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. “Microwaves” also are kitchen appliances that heat food by exposing them to microwave radiation.

    What you’ll need:

    • chocolate, egg whites, cheese, marshmallows or something else that will melt easily and unevenly; Peeps are perfect.
    • flat-bottomed, microwave-safe oblong cake pan (11 x 8”).  A Pyrex® baking tray would work well.
    • oven mitts
    • microwave oven
    • ruler
    • calculator or basic math skills

    Like all waves, microwaves are defined by their frequency and wavelength. How do you determine the frequency of the radiation in your microwave oven? Look at the manufacturer’s sticker and the abbreviations MHz or GHz. (The hertz is the unit of measurement for frequency.) A common frequency value is 2,450 MHz, or 2.45 GHz. This means 2,450,000,000 Hz, or 2,450,000,000 cycles per second.

    How do you determine the wavelengths of the radiation in your microwave?

    1. Take a glass oblong cake-baking pan and pack it full of Peeps; different colors are fine.
    2. Heat the Peeps pan in the microwave on fairly low heat, without turning. Don’t heat it too much—you want it to warm unevenly and to have “hot spots”.
    3. Take out the plate and measure the distance between hot/gooey areas. Poke the Peeps with toothpicks to find the gooey areas. The average distance between these areas is about half a wavelength.
    4. Find the wavelength by multiplying the average distance by two.

    In our calculation the average distance between hot spots was about 6.1 centimeters. So, the wavelength was about 12.2 centimeters.

    Now multiply the frequency (2,450,000,000) by the wavelength. You should get pretty close to the speed of light in inches per second or centimeters per second.

    Use this site to convert inches-per-second to miles-per-hour:

    Multiply your answer by .01 to convert centimeters-per-second to meters-per-second. Using our data:

    • 12.2 x 2,450,000,000 = 29,890,000,000. That’s centimeters-per-second.
    • 29,890,000,000 x 0.01 = 298,900,000. That’s meters-per-second. And this is very close to the constant 299,792,458!

    Many thanks to David Czaplewski of Argonne National Laboratory for making us aware of this experiment.