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. 

    The Bends


    How do scuba divers get "the bends", and just what are they? Kids, you can feel some of the effects of pressure in a swimming pool. Down just a few feet underwater your ears begin to hurt. This is caused by pressure on your eardrums.

    Where does that pressure come from? At the surface of the water, a column of air weighs 14.7 pounds per square inch, or "one atmosphere". When you go underwater, you add the weight of the water to the atmospheric pressure. A 10-meter (33-foot) column of water also weighs 14.7 pounds per square inch, so at a depth of 10 meters the pressure is two atmospheres: half from the water and half from the air above it. Pressure influences how divers use air. At ten meters, the increased pressure means that lungs hold twice as much air as they do at the surface - and divers breathe air from their tanks twice as fast. This is why divers can stay down only a short time, for example, 15 minutes at 50 meters.

    "The bends," or decompression sickness, is a health hazard associated with pressure changes. The longer you stay down and the deeper you go, the more nitrogen gas dissolves into your body tissues. Nitrogen comes from the air we normally breathe, which is about 80% nitrogen and only 20% oxygen. If you ascend too rapidly, the dissolved nitrogen comes out of solution too quickly and forms bubbles in your tissues. You could experience severe pain in joints, dizziness, blindness, paralysis, and convulsions.

    Divers learn they must ascend slowly, and sometimes take "decompression stops" on the way up. This allows the dissolved nitrogen to come out of the body safely. Sometimes a hyperbaric chamber has to be used to stabilize a diver in critical condition. These are chambers in which patients breathe 100% oxygen at greater than one atmosphere pressure using a mask. Flooding the body with pure oxygen helps to quickly and safely eliminate the nitrogen gas. Divers can also be certified to use different mixtures of air in their tanks, which are enriched in oxygen ("nitrox").


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    October 1996


    Reference: The Internet at: (Minnesota's PBS TV station KTCA produces "Newton's Apple", a national science program for kids and adults).