CSU Chemistry Club achieves American Chemical Society’s highest student chapter award

The American Chemical Society (ACS) released its student chapter awards, listing the CSU Chemistry Club as a gold level “Outstanding Chapter” for the 2019-2020 academic year, which is the highest student chapter recognition.

CSU Chemistry Club hosts hands-on demonstrations for students during 2019 event.

ACS student chapters are classified as outstanding (gold), commendable (silver), or honorable mention (bronze) based on their submitted reports that showcase programs and activities for the year.

For the 2019-2020 academic year, ACS awarded 72 chapters outstanding, 99 chapters commendable, and 120 chapters honorable mention.

“I am so grateful for the Chemistry Club and the amazing officers that frequently put in the time and effort alongside me in order to make sure our organization thrives,” said Annemarie Parker, president for the CSU Chemistry Club. “It is their hard work and dedication to the club as well as their passion for science and desire to share it with others that allowed this club to receive the award that it did.”

Going above and beyond

CSU Chemistry Club Outreach Coordinators, Maggie Wellman and Brooke Harris, recording a video for the 2020 virtual Spooktacular.

Sizable recognition for this award is based on the student chapter’s campus and community outreach, and for the CSU Chemistry Club, that is anchored by their annual Halloween show, Spooktacular.

Typically, this event draws in Fort Collins families and their kids who come dressed up to watch Halloween-themed science demonstrations and participate in hands-on learning with the club’s members. Last October, Spooktacular reached record numbers with over 1,000 attendees.

Moving the event online this year, the CSU Chemistry Club showcased its virtual talents and resilience. The club still got into costume – as mad scientists, pumpkins, fairies and more – and recorded their demonstrations for kids to watch online a few days before Halloween. This included tutorials for spooky at home experiments; a Zoom call to meet the club and ask questions; and a Halloween costume contest, where the winner got to have mad scientists virtually visit their class for science fun.

“We are really happy that our Spooktacular event this year happened, because any chance to help out kids or teachers or even parents during this time of zoom calls and virtual interactions is a success,” said Maggie Wellman, outreach coordinator for the CSU Chemistry Club.

“The pandemic has caused most events to be canceled outright,” said Ben Reynolds, the CSU Chemistry Club faculty advisor for the last five years. “Our [chemistry club] persisted and decided to move forward with a virtual event. They recognized the need to have these opportunities available to the community, especially the younger kids who might not understand why Halloween didn’t look the same this year. At each step, they created the virtual event with the same level of effort and care as they would have put into the annual in-person event. They never wavered in their commitment to the community.”

Outside of Spooktacular, outreach for the club also includes visiting schools and local organizations to teach kids about chemistry with liquid nitrogen shows, tutorials on making bubbles bounce, tie-dye creations and more. Leading during a pandemic, the club has been able to shift this all online by creating a series of science videos that are both educational and fun for kids, categorized by the grade level they are intended for. The group reached out to schools to notify teachers of this resource to assist them in the online planning.

CSU Chemistry Club President, Annemarie Parker, helping a student with an experiment during a 2019 Chemistry Club Meeting.

CSU Chemistry Club also received the Outstanding Chapter award for its professional development, creating opportunities for club members to network and learn about future career opportunities; its fundraising, selling safety goggles as well as bath bombs the club created to the CSU community; and regularly hosting meeting to keep members involved.

The CSU Chemistry Club continues to be recognized for its recent achievements as the group received the 2020 Regional P3 – Partners for Progress & Prosperity Award on November 13 during the Rocky Mountain Regional ACS meeting. This is an award based on collaboration between the club, department, and Colorado ACS chapter.