ODA Celebrates the Impact of Chemistry on Everyday Life

To mark the beginning of National Chemistry Week, Upper School students learned from fellow classmates and instructors during the “Marvelous Metals” exhibition. Click for photos of the “Marvelous Metals” projects.
On Monday, Chemistry and Honors Chemistry students presented their projects showing interesting ways to think about the role of metals in everyday life. There were hands-on activities and live demonstrations, and each attendee received a National Chemistry Week booklet which was provided by the American Chemical Society.

“National Chemistry Week is a community-based program of the American Chemical Society. The mission of National Chemistry Week is to communicate to the public the importance of chemistry to our quality of life,” said Ms. Terry Beeman. “The theme this year, “Marvelous Metals,” highlights the contributions metals have made, not only to our everyday life, but to society as a whole. From Antiquity to the 21st century, it’s no exaggeration to say that metals have advanced civilization.”

Dr. Lurea Doody spoke about how the use of metals has evolved throughout history, giving a brief timeline synopsis starting with the use of pure metals like silver and gold, to the discovery of fire spurring on the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. She talked about the importance of alloys, and how these new metals were integral in everyday life. “During the Iron Age, people learned to make steel from iron and carbon. This produced even stronger and more durable tools and weapons. They were definite game-changers in the lives of humans!” said Dr. Doody.

Ms. Beeman then moved to the next-generation of metal-alloy use: smart phones, building the International Space Station, and most recently, e-textiles. Students were most excited to learn about new fabrics that are created with nanoparticles around individual fibers which can conduct electricity. These fabrics are planned to be used in garments that can monitor a person’s vital signs, diagnose fatigue, or track the position of a soldier in action - all potentially life-saving implementations.

Students watched a video about this year’s Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry; M. Stanley Whittingham, John B. Goodenough, and Akira Yoshino for their pioneering development of the lithium-ion battery. The video gave students background information on the history of batteries and how these newly developed batteries composed of lithium-ions and electrons housed in petroleum coke—a carbon material—are a safer, more lightweight, and rechargeable option to formerly used lithium metal batteries. These batteries are being hailed as “the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind” by the Swedish Royal Academy, the institution that awards the Nobel Prize.

After the presentation, the student body was invited to view the Chemistry and Honors students’ posters. Many of the displays invited hands-on participation by the viewers, helping them to become physically involved in the learning process. The chemistry students’ projects covered a multitude of subjects, including music, breakfast cereals, sports equipment, and medical uses. Their posters were informative and creative, sparking interest in their classmates, and encouraging them to ask questions and learn more about these “Marvelous Metals.”

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