Student Chapter Feature: K-12 Outreach Programs (Part II)

Dozens of AIChE Student Chapters are helping to inspire the next generation of chemical engineers through their K-12 outreach programs. Earlier this year, the Executive Student Committee (ESC) featured four Chapters with an outstanding history of working with K-12 students. The Chapters are featured on ChEnected here. The ESC is excited to present three more Chapters engaged in K-12 outreach.

Lehigh University

In 2013, the Student Chapter at Lehigh University was featured on ChEnected for its K-12 outreach event held at a local middle school. The feature can be found here. Five years later, the Chapter is still involved in K-12 outreach programming at the middle school. The Chapter visits Broughal Middle School and performs science demos for the young students every year. During their classroom visit, the Student Chapter volunteers perform a series of experiments, including an iodine clock reaction and "magnetic slime." The outreach chair, a position on the Chapter's executive board, plans the annual trip to Broughal Middle School. The Chapter and its outreach chairs actively seek feedback and have used it to improve their K-12 outreach programming over the years. Since the 2013 ChEnected feature, the Chapter has worked to find ways to make the science behind the experiments more relatable for the middle school students. The Student Chapter volunteers make an effort to describe a phenomenon by using examples that the young students see in their everyday lives. Brielle Gemberling, a recent Lehigh ChemE grad, noted that the event "is fun, engaging for students, and encourages students to look at STEM fields in a different way." 

A Lehigh University Student Chapter volunteer demonstrates an iodine clock reaction in front of middle school students. 

New Mexico State University (NMSU)

The Student Chapter at New Mexico State University (NMSU) participates in a variety of K-12 outreach events, frequently volunteering to participate in STEM fairs, visit classrooms, and lead university tours for K-12 students. During fairs, the Chapter sets up a table and performs science demos for the K-12 students visiting their table. In general, the science demos performed consist of three parts: (1) an attention-grabbing demo like the “whoosh bottle”; (2) a chemical reaction such as an iodine clock reaction or “elephant’s toothpaste”; and (3) an interactive demo such as creating slime or shaving-cream art. The Chapter explains the science behind every demo, which helps to excite the young students about science in general. The Chapter tailors science demos to the audience’s age. For high school students, the Chapter discusses the chemical engineering profession and what the field of chemical engineering encompasses.

The department head and chapter advisor, Dr. Rockstraw, has played a vital role in the development of NMSU AIChE’s outreach programming. Under his guidance, the NMSU AIChE Student Chapter has been involved in K-12 outreach for many years now. Leah Wofford, NMSU AIChE Student Chapter president shares, “when I asked around the department, I hear a lot of students saying science demos are the reason they decided to choose chemical engineering.”

Due to the high frequency of science demos, NMSU AIChE created a science demos chair on the Chapter’s executive board. The science demos chair handles logistical challenges associated with the various outreach events. Next year, NMSU AIChE will continue to focus on improving their K-12 outreach programming by allowing volunteers the opportunity to perform a science demo at a Chapter meeting as practice before the K-12 outreach event. Wofford concludes that the K-12 outreach programming is “a great way to get involved with the community and a great way to make friends within the chemical engineering department.”


NMSU AIChE Student Chapter volunteers making a classroom visit

To find out more about NMSU AIChE, please visit its Facebook page.

University of Iowa

Once a semester, the Student Chapter at the University of Iowa hosts a Kid's Day Camp for K-5 students in an effort to promote STEM-related fields in Iowa City and its surrounding cities. The Chapter performs science demos to interest the K-5 students. The fall semester camp is Halloween themed, while the spring semester camp features Earth Day-themed experiments and activities. The K-5 students have the opportunity to participate in activities such as making a lava lamp from a plastic water bottle, creating a miniature volcano, and planting flowers in decomposable pots.

A University of Iowa Student Chapter volunteer helps one of the Kid's Day Camp attendees with her ladybug craft.

Lizzy Zimmerman, former University of Iowa Student Chapter president, spoke with ChEnected about their Kid's Day Camps while attending the 2017 Annual Student Conference. Watch the interview here to learn more about the Kid's Day Camps.


Saad Al-Omani's picture

Great initiative & outreach program to engage students from the early stage. I am sure you focus on the safety at your visits. Pls do more and stress on it. I would suggest you give the students some minutes to share some safety talks & moments with you. U will hear very amazing experience from them. I wiiiiiish U the best. SAAD