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.



Highlights from National Chemistry Week 2021

The theme ‘Fast or Slow . . . Chemistry Makes It Go!’ celebrated reaction rates

by Alexandra A. Taylor
December 17, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 45

This year’s National Chemistry Week (NCW) explored the world of reaction rates with the theme “Fast or Slow . . . Chemistry Makes It Go!” As part of the annual outreach event, participants investigated how temperature, pressure, concentration, the presence of a catalyst, and other variables can influence reaction rates. This year, 117 American Chemical Society local sections and 4 international chapters participated in the event.

“This year’s NCW theme was such a fun way to explore the world of reaction rates while asking the question, ‘How can I catalyze change?’ ” says Holly Davis, chair of the ACS Committee on Community Activities. “I cannot express enough gratitude for the volunteers that joined this celebration and planned safe and fun outreach events all over the world to engage the public with chemistry.”

Four forearms, three wearing glow stick bracelets and three sporting temporary tattoos.
Credit: Lindsay Mangas
Students at Arborbrook Christian Academy conducted experiments using glow sticks.

In 1987, ACS immediate past president George Pimentel launched the outreach event as National Chemistry Day. It was such a success that ACS extended it to a weeklong event starting in 1993.

“As a longtime NCW volunteer, I have always enjoyed these amazing community-based activities. This year, despite the pandemic, our volunteers from across the world did a wonderful job, interacting with students, their parents, and others in the community, and showing them the value of chemistry in everyday life,” says ACS president H. N. Cheng. “We should thank them for their commitment and enthusiasm and congratulate them for their success.”

More than 80,000 print copies of the NCW publication Celebrating Chemistry were distributed in English, and 11,000 copies were distributed in Spanish. The NCW Illustrated Poem Contest received 72 entries from local sections, from which a total of eight first- and second-place winners were chosen (see box on page 51).

Here are highlights from this year’s celebration, listed alphabetically by group name and reported by ACS local sections:

13 students in a hallway wearing matching t-shirts.
Credit: Moises Nuñez-Molina
California State University, Stanislaus, Warriors Chemistry Club

California Local Section volunteers delighted scores of visitors at the Solano Avenue Sidewalk a-Faire. Visitors experienced the iodine clock reaction and made bracelets with UV color-changing beads. Students at California State University, Stanislaus, gathered in their campus lab to present the apple-browning activity virtually to middle schoolers.

In the Carolina-Piedmont Local Section, the students at Arborbrook Christian Academy in Waxhaw, North Carolina, conducted experiments using pop rocks and glow sticks.

Volunteers from the Central Ohio Valley Local Section did hands-on chemistry activities with children at Heritage Farm’s Fall Festival. Over 120 children explored how temperature, acidity, and surface area affect the fizzing rate of Alka-Seltzer tablets. They also launched corks over the creek with baking soda and vinegar bottle rockets.

The Central Wisconsin Local Section held an outdoor event in a nature preserve featuring hands-on activities, demonstrations by students from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, and giveaways.

Volunteers in the Cincinnati Local Section performed demonstrations in the local library. Eight volunteers presented demos in person at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The Cleveland Local Section partnered with the Cuyahoga County Public Library system to design an online program based on the theme, which included two chemistry demonstration videos and three hands-on experiment kits. Participants received links to the videos and instructions for each experiment, and then submitted answers to questions about the experiments online. The top three winners in each grade group won cash prizes.

The Connecticut Valley Local Section hosted an illustrated poem contest.

The Dallas–Fort Worth Local Section Chemistry Connections event had over 1,300 guests and 180 volunteers from local universities, colleges, industry, and high school organizations.

In the East Tennessee Local Section, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), Chemistry Department celebrated with several public events, including media appearances, demo shows by student chapters, and a special NCW display. Dr. Al Hazari hosted the 31st Annual Chemistry Magic Show at UTK and a chemistry magic show at the Vonore Public Library.

The Eastern New York Local Section hosted an online celebration for the second year. Seven participating groups created videos of their members performing hands-on activities. The videos were uploaded to YouTube. They also hosted an illustrated poem contest.

The Green Mountain Local Section partnered with the student chapters from Saint Michael’s College and Norwich University to facilitate hands-on activities at the ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain.

The Joliet Local Section held an in-person event with virtual streaming via YouTube that included student research posters, an awards ceremony, and a keynote presentation.

The Kalamazoo Local Section partnered with the Kalamazoo Valley Museum to cosponsor the 35th annual Chemistry Day in celebration of National Chemistry Week and the online digital exhibit “Tracing the Path,” a historic look back on the tornado that touched down in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on May 13, 1980.

The Kentucky Lake Local Section partnered with the University of Tennessee at Martin Student Chapter and invited students from four other area universities to present a chemistry demonstration show. The demonstrations ranged from quick and fiery to slow and surprising.

The Maryland Local Section hosted ten programs in public libraries in four Maryland counties. Programs featured activities related to Brownian motion, diffusion, the ideal gas law, solubility, and chemical reaction rates. The programs were well-received by children and adults alike.

A mother and her daughter stand near a demonstration table.
Credit: Rose Pesce-Rodriguez
A student and her mother observe the effect of temperature on the diffusion of candy coating in water as part of the Maryland Section's NCW celebration.

In the Mid-Hudson Local Section, Vassar College hosted a virtual College Bowl, West Point celebrated Mole Day with mole cupcakes, and Marist College hosted a Mole Day Breakfast.

The Nashville Local Section sponsored a booth at the Tennessee Science Teachers Conference and gave away ACS and NCW resources to more than 300 teachers. They also shared the NCW publication Celebrating Chemistry with two local museums for use during after-school programs.

The Nebraska Local Section held its annual SciPop interactive outreach in partnership with the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum and the Omaha Local Section. The local section provided four on-site activities. It gave out over 150 activity kits, which included four at-home activities, an NCW handout, and a copy of the book C’RONA Pandemic Comics by Bob Hall, Judy Diamond, Liz VanWormer, and Judi M. gaiashkibos. There were over 1,000 guests during the two-day event.

The New Haven Local Section celebrated with an outdoor Halloween party.

Seven people stand in front of a playground.
Credit: ACS Nigeria
Participants at an outreach event held by a student chapter in Nigeria

The Nigeria International Chemical Sciences Chapter held a virtual event to celebrate. It featured talks, a Q&A session, virtual demonstrations, distribution of Celebrating Chemistry, and presentations from student chapters.

The North Jersey Local Section hosted the 26th annual ChemExpo in partnership with Liberty Science Center. Two local high schools and two colleges engaged over 1,400 visitors with demonstrations related to this year’s theme, including balloon races that illustrated the rates of effervescence based on surface area of Alka-Seltzer, the effects of temperature on fluorescence of glow sticks, and effects on the oxidation of fruits and vegetables.

The Northeast Wisconsin Local Section partnered with the Oshkosh Public Library to celebrate NCW. The local section provided the Oshkosh Public Library with over 120 activity kits, Celebrating Chemistry, and illustrated poem contest flyers. Copies of Celebrating Chemistry and illustrated poem contest flyers went to schools, libraries, museums, and groups that serve children. Winning poems were posted on the section’s Facebook page and received a cash prize.

In the Northern New York Local Section, Dana Barry of Clarkson University promoted the theme to teachers and students. She encouraged the students to explore the chemistry of browning apples.

A child stirs a glass of foaming liquid. A box of baking soda and half a lemon sit next to the glass.
Credit: Rajiv Narula
Rohan Veer Narula observes a chemical reaction of an acid with a base as part of the Northern New York Section's NCW celebration.

The Northwest Central Ohio Local Section provided teachers with materials and instructions to perform all the activities in Celebrating Chemistry with their students. Nine teachers in five different schools participated, serving a total of 774 students. Students from the Centenary College of Louisiana Student Chapter packed up all necessary supplies for each teacher, delivered them to the offices at their respective schools, and shared a video that reviewed background, activity specifics, and logistics. The teachers were very pleased to receive these materials.

The Oklahoma Local Section held an outreach event at the Science Museum Oklahoma. Visitors were invited to watch demonstrations and take part in hands-on activities. Participants were given copies of Celebrating Chemistry and several take-home activities.

A group photo of chemistry festival participants standing in front of a fountain.
Credit: Ingrid Montes
The Puerto Rico Local Section held its traditional Festival de Química at the Paseo de la Princesa in Old San Juan.

The Puerto Rico Local Section held the traditional Festival de Química at the Paseo de la Princesa in Old San Juan, featuring a hands-on demonstration related to the NCW theme. The section also joined efforts with all the ACS Student Chapters and ChemClubs. Activities included school visits, in-person and virtual chemical demonstration shows and hands-on activities, trivia and contests, conferences related to the theme, and public exhibits. ChemClubs also conducted chemistry shows, exhibitions, and chemistry contests in their schools.

The San Gorgonio Local Section held an event at California Baptist University. The event, organized by the university’s student chapter, hosted more than 230 students and their guardians. 110 student volunteers presented demonstrations or helped with hands-on activities. A total of 25 tables were set up outdoors with a variety of demonstrations and activities.

A man at a bench performs a demonstration for a group of eight children and adults.
Credit: Thanh-Tam Truong
Josh Cooper shows off the Briggs-Rauscher oscillating reaction at a hands-on science demonstration hosted by the Savannah River Local Section.

The Savannah River Local Section hosted a hands-on science and demo event in cooperation with the University of South Carolina Aiken. The annual event attracted exhibitors from local science clubs and professional organizations in the area, as well as over 2,500 children of all ages and their families. Demonstrations included the “traffic light” reaction and the Briggs-Rauscher oscillating reaction. The second event was a high school visit, including the same demonstrations and a discussion on careers in chemistry.

The South Florida Local Section participated in various NCW activities, including visiting elementary schools during the week, hosting illustrated poem and demo video contests, partnering with two museums for themed events, and hosting a STEM@home virtual event with the Younger Chemists Committee in South Florida.

Four people, two in lab coats and two in goggles, standing in a museum lobby.
Credit: Milagros Delgado
South Florida Local Section board members at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Southern Nevada Local Section hosted a fun-filled, hands-on event for kids with the Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas. Over 100 children received gift bags with activity booklets, stickers, and more.

In the Western Michigan Local Section, local chemists and chemistry clubs from Grand Valley State University, Hope College, and Aquinas College carried out hands-on experiments for the public, set up a station to make poetry for the illustrated poem contest, and gave away stickers, NCW masks, temporary tattoos, and activity books.

The Wilson Dam Local Section partnered with the University of North Alabama Department of Physics and Earth Science and Department of Chemistry and Occupational Health Science to host an event called “Chemistry and Star Formation.”

NCW 2022 will take place Oct. 16–22 with the theme “Fabulous Fibers: The Chemistry of Fabrics.”

NCW Illustrated Poem Contest winners

The ACS Committee on Community Activities and the ACS Office of Science Outreach have announced the winners of the 2021 National Chemistry Week Illustrated Poem Contest. K–12 students were invited to share their interpretation of this year’s theme, “Fast or Slow . . . Chemistry Makes It Go,” in the form of illustrated poems. First-place winners in each grade category received $300, and second-place winners received $150. View all poems at

K to 2nd grade
First place: Olivia Pepelea, Indiana Local Section
An illustrated poem about different types of reactions.
Credit: Olivia Pepelea

K to 2nd grade
Second place: Thalia Brennan, Binghamton Local Section
An illustrated poem about heat.
Credit: Thalia Brennan

3rd to 5th grade
First place: Caleb Kim, Princeton Local Section
An illustrated poem about enzymes.
Credit: Caleb Kim

3rd to 5th grade
Second place: Mira Murthy, Pittsburgh Local Section
Credit: Mira Murthy

6th to 8th grade
First place: Calliope Brennan, Binghamton Local Section
Credit: Calliope Brennan

6th to 8th grade
Second place: Anika Khedekar, Princeton Local Section
An illustrated poem about oxidation
Credit: Anika Khedekar
An illustrated poem about catalysts.
Credit: Janie Lee

9th to 12th grade
Second place: Henry Holt, Virginia Blue Ridge Local Section
An illustrated poem about chemical reactions.
Credit: Henry Holt


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

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