ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Chemistry came alive when a team of volunteers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Army Research Laboratory presented experiments to children that coincided with National Chemistry Week theme: Chemistry-Our Health, Our Future! at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Youth Center Oct. 28.

National Chemistry Week is a nationwide effort by the American Chemical Society to bring the importance of Chemistry in our everyday lives to young students. ACS develops a theme and a 'Celebrating Chemistry' newsletter each year. This year's theme gave the ARL scientists a chance to show how chemistry plays an integral role in the health field.

"It's never too early to get young children excited about doing experiments and thinking about the world around them," said Dr. Lisa Marvel who helped organize the event.

Groups of youths ages 4 to 11 rotated through six stations set up by the ARL team in the center gymnasium.

At one station, youths were asked to measure the amount of sugar in foods and beverages with a small scale.

ARL scientist Dr. Chi-Chin Wu, who led the demonstration, showed the children how to read the nutrition labels on a bag of chips, a granola bar and a large and small bottle of soda.

"At the beginning of the demonstration I asked the children what food they wanted. Most children picked the large bottle of soda, which has the most sugar," she said. "Hopefully, as a result from this experiment they will think about how much sugar they are putting into their bodies. Maybe they will choose the small bottle of soda next time."

Wu, who was a college professor before working at ARL, said that the purpose of Chemistry Week is to illustrate that chemistry is all around us.

"Chemistry sounds so tough," But it isn't as scary as you might think."

At another station the children compared how much vitamin C was in Tang drink mix or orange juice by using iodine.

"I enjoy teaching kids about chemistry because it gets them thinking about things that they do/use every day and the underlying science that makes it possible," said Dr. Matthew Bratcher.
"Chemistry is all around us, and National Chemistry Week events give me a chance to talk to kids about the chemistry involved with everything from toothpaste to touch-screens.

Some of the demonstrations had a "gross" factor which held the children's attention.

Al Marvel, a retired volunteer, talked to the children about how easily germs and viruses get spread around. He demonstrated this by putting glow lotion on the children's hands and then asked them to shake their friend's hand. The friend whose hand was shaken was shown how much glow gel was transferred under an ultra violet light.

"Washing hands is the first line of defense," he said.

Dr. Aaron Jackson led a demonstration called "What Does Your Pee Say About You?" He discussed with the children why patients are asked to urinate in a cup at a doctor's office. He then asked the children to use testing strips to determine what cup of water had high amounts of sugar. This experiment demonstrated how lab technicians test for diabetes using urine samples.

"It is exciting to see when children learn new concepts," he said. "Children can understand chemistry; they are smarter than most people give them credit for."

Other experiments demonstrated the fat and protein in milk and how mucus is beneficial to the body.

During National Chemistry Week, Oct. 16-22, ARL scientists and engineers also worked with approximately 2,000 students in Baltimore City, Baltimore, Harford, and Howard Counties.

For more photos see www.flickr.com/photos/usagapg/.