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. 

    Staying Dry

    Kids, did you ever wonder how the new disposable diapers that are so thin can really work for your baby brothers or sisters? There are tiny beads in the filling that are able to absorb more than 300 times their own weight of water. Our purpose is to collect these beads and watch how they behave when exposed to water. All you need is an "ultra-absorbent" disposable diaper (Huggies Ultrathin, Ultra-Pampers), water, and table salt.  

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

    Cut open the diaper and carefully peel away the cotton-like filling. You will notice that it feels gritty. Separate the small gritty beads from the cotton fibers (tweezers and a small kitchen strainer may help, but are not really necessary). You should be able to easily get about 1/2 tsp. of beads, then pour them into a clear glass. Add about 1/2 cup of water and gently swirl, or pour the mixture back and forth between two glasses until it is too thick. (If you are able to get distilled, deionized water, it works better than hard tap water.) To "unlock" your gel, sprinkle a little salt on top and stir it into the gel. When the water is released the now syrupy liquid can be washed down the drain.

    The superabsorbent beads are a co-polymer of poly(acrylamide) and sodium polyacrylate that can undergo physical changes quickly and reversibly with water. Other uses for these polymers are for hydro-mulching plants (places like Frank's Nursery now sell small bags of colored gel for this) and removal of water from jet fuels. Try your experiment again if you like with a drop of food coloring in the water (yellow fits the diaper theme nicely).


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    February 1993


    Reference: B. Z. Shakhashiri "Chemical Demonstrations", Vol. 3, chapter 9, p. 368.