Be a Maker

Art made from spinning ink on paper in a salad spinner

Art made from spinning ink on paper in a salad spinner

Etching a metal pot

Etching a metal pot

A Prosthetic hand made from a 3D printer

A Prosthetic hand made from a 3D printer


Imagine a student who can design and build a prosthetic hand, all on their own.  Or a group of students making a robot that shoots basketballs.  Or a ChemClub putting together a model car that runs on a tiny fuel cell.

It is all happening right now as part of the increasingly popular Maker Movement.  It is all about ” all-ages of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, and science clubs” coming together with the goal of “making stuff.”

Maker Faires

At a recent Mini-Maker Faire in Portland, Oregon, all sorts of makers were present.  One booth offered instruction on making masks and costumes from cardboard.  Another let attendees put together an electronic pin with blinking lights, learning how to solder and use solid state components in the process. Maker Faires are all-age gatherings that bring together a mix of people who share an interest in making things.  They started in 2006 with Maker Faires in New York and San Francisco.  By 2013 there were nearly a hundred independent mini-maker fairs offered all over the world.

Electric Playdough
Conductive playdough running a motor

Conductive playdough running a motor.

The Maker Movement has all the ingredients for a great ChemClub activity.  One perfect example was making Playdough and using it for experiments.  The typical recipe for homemade Playdough contains a lot of salt.  At the Mini-Maker Faire one group demonstrated how the Playdough could conduct electricity by sticking battery leads in one end and lighting up a mini LED bulb at the other.

Make Magazine is full of examples and ideas for Maker projects.  A recent posting had instructions on how to permanently etch metal, using simple household materials.  They used the technique for etching volume marks inside a stainless steel kettle, but it could be used to make ornaments or jewelery or any number of things.

Making Paper

Making Paper

Biosiesel to Yogurt

On the Maker Faire website they feature a special section for chemistry related projects that presents dozens of ideas, from making biodiesel to making yogurt.  This site doesn’t include complete instructions, but it is a rich source for ideas.

Perfect for ChemClub

Great ChemClub activities are a combination of learning basic chemistry while having a lot of fun.  Check out these and other Maker activities for your next meeting.

AACT: A Great Resource for Teachers of Chemistry

AACT logo The American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) officially launched in September. As a ChemClub advisor, you can further supplement your students’ chemistry experiences by joining for the annual fee of only $50, and preservice teachers can join at the discounted price of $25.

Some member benefits include being part of a community of K–12 teachers of chemistry, access to high-quality resources, and subscriptions to the ACS publication ChemMatters and the new AACT online periodical Chemistry Solutions, which is written by and for teachers of chemistry.

AACT’s website has collections of original multimedia that may be of interest to ChemClubs. AACT partnered with New York Times bestseller Sam Kean to bring his book “The Disappearing Spoon” to life—each short video in the series features Sam narrating a story inspired by his book about various elements.

There is also a series of videos about the founders of chemistry: Learn about Mendeleev’s journey to assemble the periodic table, the ancient chemists who paved the road for what chemistry is today, the first female Nobel Laureate Marie Curie’s life story, and others.

One mission of ChemClubs is to provide students with fun, authentic, and hands-on opportunities. The library of classroom resources on AACT’s site includes lessons from teachers across the country and around the world. Peruse the collection and try some of the demonstrations with your club members. Safety precautions in each lesson are outlined in detail, so if you have an outreach program, you can gauge right away whether the activity is appropriate for your students to run, or whether it should be facilitated by an instructor. AACT has a number of lessons that are designed for student-to-student interactions, including this cabbage activity. And if you have a great activity you’ve done with a club, you can submit it to the AACT library, and AACT will credit your ChemClub with its contribution.

Ferrous WheelIn each issue of Chemistry Solutions there is a column called Chemistry Fun! In the September issue, the column featured pictograms of phrases that were puns of chemistry concepts. For example, what is this? Your club members may get a kick out of activities included in this column.

You can subscribe to AACT email updates by completing the “Stay in Touch” field in the footer of Or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest for other news and information from AACT. We are excited to be part of the K–12 chemistry community, so share with us ideas you have by emailing

Celebrating Planet Earth


The planet Earth is our shared home with a vast number of other living organisms, so it is humanity’s duty to try to conserve it the best we can. To promote awareness of the necessity of keeping our planet healthy, people around the world celebrate Earth Day annually on April 22. In celebration of this ideal to keep our planet clean, chemists from all around the island of Puerto Rico gathered in El Paseo de La Princesa, in Old San Juan, San Juan, to highlight “The Wonders of Water,” this year’s American Chemical Society (ACS) Chemists Celebrate Earth Day theme.

Members of different ACS clubs throughout the island got together and prepared more than 20 tables with exhibits and demonstrations involving the physical and chemical properties of water, as well as explaining the importance it has not only for us humans, but for every other living being on our planet. Natives, tourists, and club members all had the chance to participate.

Students from the Specialized School in Science and Math Thomas Armstrong Toro in Ponce couldn’t miss this amazing opportunity. Ten students from the school’s ChemClub set up and helped at the school’s table, explaining the experiments and demonstrations. The explanations were fitted to the audience, from explaining to children how water and oil “don’t get along” to discussing cohesion and adhesion with advanced participants. It was also imperative that the students spoke both English and Spanish, allowing them to communicate efficiently with not only the natives, but tourists from other countries as well.

Three demonstrations that stood out were:

Surface tension

Participants were urged to attempt to float a paper clip in a cup of water. A few were able to achieve this. Here a student explained how best to do it, as well as how the liquid is able to keep the paper clip afloat.


Oil and water

Oil and water were put in a clear glass and food coloring was added. After this, an Alka-Seltzer tablet was placed in it. In the water, the tablet reacted to produce carbon dioxide gas. Bubbles of carbon dioxide gas carried droplets of water upward through the oil, producing an effect like a lava lamp. Children were urged to take home a small test tube with the mix with their parents’ permission. A version of this activity is online at Lava Lamp.


Soft and hard water

The procedure was to mix water with magnesium sulfate in a water bottle, leave another water bottle full of water intact, and then add dishwashing soap to both. The participants were asked if, after shaking the bottles vigorously, they knew which water was the hard water. Many noticed how the softer water had much more bubbles than the hard one.


The conservation of planet Earth should be one of the most important things on our agenda these days, as each day pollution worsens the situation for everyone. We all have to remember that our one little drop of water can make an enormous difference in a sea of people, and we can all contribute to a better world, one way or another.

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Share Your Success Story


Each phrase in the Wordle image above represents a success story. A favorite activity. Chemistry excitement connected to some ChemClub, somewhere.

  • What caught your eye?
  • What do you want to hear more about?
  • What do you want to try yourself, maybe with your own ChemClub?

In the ChemClub annual survey for this past school year, advisors and students were asked to share the activities that were most successful and their favorites. Highlights from those answers are collected in the image above.

Reading through the collected survey answers each year is always fun and a bit tantalizing. By necessity, the descriptions are brief. But they make us want to know more.

For me, one example was “Making BREAKING BAD candy.” Recipe, please!

Another was “Made ‘robot’ sculptures from recycled material.” Photos, please!

It’s great for ChemClub staff to have this feedback in the survey. It can help show if particular activities from the resource packets that we send were super popular among Clubs. It also gives us ideas for future resources to develop and share. And, we love to get this small taste of your Club—what type of stuff your members loved to do during the year.

Looking for an even wider audience to share your success stories and favorites? Look no further. You’re here! The ACS ChemClub Happenings blog needs your story. Advisors and students are encouraged to send their potential blog posts and photos to We even have tips to help get you started.

What’s your success story?