Chemistry Club Hosts Middle Schoolers for Science Experiments on Campus

The laughter, energy and fun you'd typically find in a middle school classroom flowed into Santa Monica College Saturday morning, as over 50 students got a chance to see what it's like to work towards a degree.

Students from John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica got to experience working in a college lab using some of the tools available at SMC, as part of an outreach program with the Chemistry Club.

The kids worked in small groups led by club members, and conducted an experiment where they used pipettes, glassware and measuring equipment to find the different amounts of ingredients present in a bottle of Mountain Dew.

"Everyone was really responsive and paying attention, exactly what we wanted," Chemistry Club President Tarik Meziab said. "Chemistry Club really tries to focus on outreach to middle schools and elementary schools and this is our most anticipated event of each year."

Meziab said the turnout was double that of the previous year's event, but that club members were able to handle the students and get a valuable teaching experience to put on their resume. As for the kids, the event served as an introduction to college-level science for them to consider when planning their academic future.

Chemistry Professors Jennifer Hsieh and Travis Pecorelli are the co-advisers for the club. They both credited their connection with the science coordinator at John Adams with being able to host the students Saturday for the third time.

"This year we scheduled it earlier in the year... so we expanded to two labs, at this point we're at capacity we didn't have any more lab space for today. Maybe in the future we'll be able to accommodate a third section," Hsieh said. "This is actually a college-level lab that the students are doing now, and honestly they get as good if not better data than our students taking it at the college level."

The event is one of the ways the chemistry club tries to reach out to the community, and Pecorelli says these outings also help club members grow within the group.

"Usually what's best about these outreach events is that, even if we have members who have been attending, this usually gets them to increase their involvement in the club. Oftentimes, our most dedicated participants in these outreach events become our officers for the next year," Pecorelli said.

The club has worked with students from Will Rodgers Elementary in similar events as well, and Hsieh talked about a new event in possibly hosting a science festival during the spring semester.

"It's something they do out at Mt. SAC, and it's something they do down in San Diego, so I kinda wanna try and do that here on the west side," Hsieh said. "For all the families and kids to come and do little hands-on demos, I'm thinking we could do it at the end of Earth Week... Scientists are so pro-environment, and that's just a really good capstone time to do that."

The chemistry club has earned a reputation with their work in the community, the American Chemical Society (ACS) recognized SMC's student-run chapter with an 'outstanding' designation last year. Meziab said the club is attending the ACS National Conference in March 2018 for that and a nomination for the organization's green chemistry award.

"I think there's something like 1,100 clubs registered with the ACS; 50 of them get the outstanding award each year, so we got that which is big for us," Meziab said. "So we're really trying to continue that trend of progress."