If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



A Room Transformed

The Indiana Section of ACS converts a local clinic’s waiting room into a chemistry-themed playroom for kids

by Sophie L. Rovner
December 10, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 50

Visiting a medical facility can be a scary prospect, particularly for children.But thanks to a dedicated team of American Chemical Society members and other volunteers, kids in an Indianapolis suburb will be eager to return to their local clinic.

The transformation of the clinic’s drab waiting room into a colorful chemistry playroom was the brainchild of Sibel Selcuk, chair of the Indiana Section of ACS. Selcuk is a chief scientist at the Heritage Research Group, a firm involved in ventures including highway construction and materials, environmental services, petrochemicals, and chemical refining.

Selcuk dreams up ideas for new company projects, and she draws on that same creativity in her work as a volunteer. When she applied for an ACS local section Innovative Project Grant (IPG), she was determined to use the funding for a project with lasting impact. “I wanted to come up with something that would remind people that chemistry is part of their lives,” she explains. “I particularly like to work with children, because if we can get them excited about chemistry, that’s the best contribution that we can make to the profession.”

She sketched out a plan to create a chemistry-themed playroom at a St. Vincent Medical Group facility to foster learning and awareness of the role of science in people’s lives, particularly in health care.

With a $3,000 ACS IPG grant in hand, Selcuk enlisted the help of fellow local section member Linda Osborn. Osborn in turn recruited her husband, Gary, a retired electrician, and their son Nick, an engineer, to the cause. Several others eagerly joined the team, including coworker Dan Robinson, section members Viola Kimbowa and Paul Lewer, clinic manager Lori Mills, and many more. Clinic physicians and staff also lent their support.

During two weekends this summer, volunteers replaced the original dreary decor in the waiting room of the St. Vincent Medical Group pediatric office in Zionsville, Ind. They painted the walls a multitude of vibrant colors and covered them with games as well as images of molecules and other information. Each wall tells a different story. The flu wall, for instance, tells the story of a flu virus and describes chemistry’s role in flu shots, and the green wall offers information about recycling and green chemistry.

Osborn’s family fixed a broken play table, and several families painted toy wooden blocks with images of microscopes, beakers, and molecules. Business Furniture donated furniture and toys, Leaf Software Solutions contributed two iPads programmed with chemistry-related games, and ISF Sign Specialists donated wall decals.

Opening day on Oct. 23 featured a visit by Indianapolis Mayor Gregory A. Ballard. Sam Wendel, chief mad scientist with Mad Science of North Central Indiana and a retired chemist, educated KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory students and other guests with lively chemistry demonstrations. ACS Board Chair William F. Carroll Jr. and Brad McNabb, chief operations officer of St. Vincent Medical Group, officiated and also helped carry out a playful demonstration.

The playroom has been a hit with visitors, Selcuk says. One little boy walked in and began screaming, “Wow, cool, chemistry!”

Selcuk hopes to extend that sense of excitement to inspire ACS members and others to attend public outreach events associated with the fall 2013 ACS national meeting, which will be held in Indianapolis.

The meeting’s theme is “Chemistry in Motion,” and it will involve scientific outreach events at the joint ACS-Celebrate Science Indiana festival and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway racetrack, including track rides and opportunities to learn about racing-related chemistry.

The St. Vincent pediatric office before (above) and after the renovation.
Credit: Paul Lewer
The renovation team for the St. Vincent clinic included Linda Osborn (left) and Sibel Selcuk (right), the project coordinator.
Credit: Paul Lewer
ACS volunteers from the construction weekend included Gary Osborn (from left), Linda Osborn, Sibel Selcuk, Nick Osborn, Tara Manley, Paul Lewer, William Holloway, and Dan Robinson.
Credit: Paul Lewer
With help from many volunteers, the playroom comes together.
Credit: Paul Lewer
Two Business Furniture installers mount children’s games on the chemistry wall donated by their firm. In addition to a grant from ACS, other donations were made by ISF Sign Specialists and Leaf Software Solutions.
Credit: Paul Lewer
Molecules associated with the brain and with a variety of chemistry careers, as well as a mobile of world-renowned chemists, are among the decorations designed to engage visitors.
Credit: Paul Lewer
The playroom project was the brainchild of the Indiana Section of ACS.
Credit: Paul Lewer
Indianapolis Mayor Gregory A. Ballard passes out a Meg-a-Mole stuffed animal during opening festivities.
Credit: Sibel Selcuk
Sam Wendel, chief mad scientist with Mad Science of North Central Indiana and a former organic chemist, entertains KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory students and other guests at the opening ceremony.
Credit: Paul Lewer
Sam Wendel, chief mad scientist with Mad Science of North Central Indiana, teases KIPP student Monaye Peavy during the show at the St. Vincent clinic. Seconds earlier, she was stirring a liquid in the beaker Wendel is holding over her. He was demonstrating how sodium polyacrylate, which is used in disposable diapers, can absorb 200 to 300 times its weight in water to form a gooey gel.
Credit: Paul Lewer
ACS Chair of the Board William F. Carroll Jr. (from left), a KIPP student, and Brad McNabb, chief operations officer of St. Vincent Medical Group, are enveloped in dry ice smoke during the grand finale.
Credit: Paul Lewer
The KIPP students give the event a thumbs-up.
Credit: Paul Lewer


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.