What kinds of contributions do chemical engineers make to modern life? And how can young students be encouraged to study the discipline?

A group of Lehigh chemical engineering majors visited Broughal Middle School recently to try their hand at motivating younger learners.

The Lehigh students, members of the university’s chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), arrived at Broughal at 7:30 a.m. and stayed until the early afternoon, teaching five classes of students in Lori Cirucci’s eighth-grade science course.

It was the third consecutive year the AIChE members have visited Broughal. As in the previous years, the event was funded by ExxonMobil.

The Lehigh students began each class with a brief discussion. The eighth-graders learned that chemical engineers, among other endeavors, refine gasoline and develop and test new prescription drugs and new ways of processing food. The remainder of each class consisted of experiments illustrating chemical phenomena, including hands-on projects.

"I loved seeing the reactions on their faces," said Leah Tranovich ’16, who is president-elect of the Lehigh AIChE chapter. "That made me realize that the class was much more beneficial for the Broughal students than I had thought it would be."

Lehigh’s AIChE chapter, said Tranovich, is open to all undergraduate students in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering. In addition to the outreach event at Broughal, members of the group form pairs, with older students offering advice and tutoring to younger students.

The AIChE chapter is advised by Mark A. Snyder, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Read the full story at the Lehigh University News Center.

-Kurt Pfitzer is a writer with Lehigh University Media Relations.

Eighth-grade students at Broughal Middle school mixed borax powder with Elmer’s glue in a lesson about polymers. (Photo courtesy Mark Snyder & Lori Cirucci)

The eighth-graders watch as AIChE president-elect Leah Tranovich (right) uses sulfuric acid to set off a slow chemical reaction and build a blue iodine clock. (Photo courtesy Mark Snyder & Lori Cirucci)