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. 

    Cartesian Diver

    May 2018:


    • Plastic drinking bottle (1 or 2 L) with lid
    • Water
    • Ketchup or soy sauce packet or pen cap with modelling (or Sculpey) clay


    Fill with water nearly to the top of the bottle.

    Add the ketchup packet (or if using the pen cap, add about a pea-size piece of clay to the arm of the cap and put it in clay-side down – there should not be so much clay on it that the cap sinks in water – might want to see if it floats first in a glass of water – you want it to barely float).

    Put the cap on the bottle tightly and squeeze the bottle.

    You should see the packet (or cap) sink to the bottom. As you release the bottle the packet or cap should rise again. You can repeat this over and over.

    What’s happening?

    Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) is thought to have invented this toy. Descartes is considered the father of Cartesian or analytic geometry used in the discovery of calculus and his name is the basis of the Cartesian coordinate system. The object floats on water because there is trapped air inside the packet or pen cap making the entire unit less dense than water. However, as you squeeze the bottle you are compressing that air causing it to take up less space. If an object has a mass and takes up a certain amount of space and then you make it take up less space, you will increase its density. In this case you change its density so much that it becomes “heavier” than the water and it sinks. When you stop squeezing the bottle, the air in the object expands again and the object becomes less dense and again floats to the top.


    To view all past “ChemShorts for Kids”, go to:

    - Paul Brandt