Repost from the Center For Sustainable Materials Chemistry

The CSMC’s Informal Science Education (ISE) fellows and graduate students collaborated with the Chemistry Undergraduate Mentorship and Empowerment Initiative (ChUME) to make a demo-focused event designed to garner interest in STEM amongst incoming undergraduate students. This event was designed as part of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Bridge program, which allows underrepresented first-year undergraduate students to spend time getting acquainted with campus prior to the start of classes. The goal of this program is to increase retention of underrepresented groups in STEM and to develop future leaders. This goal is achieved by connecting students with their peers, campus resources, faculty, and staff.

To assist in this program, we were one of three groups selected to run an activity on Wednesday September 17. The students were divided into three groups and then rotated throughout the stations. At our station, we performed a series of demonstrations and discussed mentoring and career opportunities with the students. As an ice-breaker, we opened with a flame-test demo, where we set several solutions of metal salts dissolved in methanol on fire. The myriad of colors obtained from this process was extremely visually intriguing and served as a great intro to our next segment.

For our next segment, we split the group into two smaller groups and performed the two CSMC demos, Product Poker and Sustainability in Thin Films. These demos were designed as part of the COPPE partnership with OMSI, and have been used at numerous events since their design was finalized last spring. At the Product Poker station, students were able to learn about the different factors that can determine the sustainability of a product and chat with CSMC graduate students Jenn Amador and Shawn Decker about innovation and industry.  At the Sustainability in Thin Films station, the students learned about the CSMC’s research into thin films created through spin coating and aqueous precursors. This had direct impacts on many of the physical science and engineering students in the audience, who may be considering undergraduate research in the next year or two. During this time, the LSAMP participants also were given time to ask us questions about any aspect of college life. The most common question seemed to be, “Is general chemistry as hard as everyone says it is?”

To close, we gathered the students back into a large group and performed one last demo, Elephant’s Toothpaste. This is a rapid reaction that forms a large quantity of foam through the catalyzed decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. With this demo completed, we wished students well and made sure they had the contact info for a variety of mentoring groups on campus. The amount of interest in CSMC science and mentoring was very encouraging and made this event mutually beneficial for both the CSMC and ChUME. With any luck, we will be seeing some of these students in our research labs soon!