Our Catalyzing eXploration in Chemistry (CXC) program involved high school-aged students (grades 9-12) selected from applicants that are predominately near the four hubs of research in the CIC (i.e. Los Angeles, CA; Boston, MA; Chapel Hill, NC; and Houston, TX). We prepared two different types of kits that students can select from: one in sustainable plastics and the other in renewable energy. For the sustainable plastics groups students learnt about recycling plastics, measured physical and mechanical properties of plastics, and synthesized new degradable plastic materials. For the renewable energy groups, students learnt about the underlying principles of batteries, assembled novel batteries using renewable materials and investigated alternative energy sources.
The program culminated with the students and their graduate student mentors at our center meeting in a virtual symposium held online via Gathertown. At this virtual conference, students shared their results with each other, compared results with the team that was carrying out similar research, and learned about the project that they were not directly involved in.
In addition, we also invited undergraduates from the affiliated universities to act as student mentors. Their role was to provide background on the chemical knowledge related to the project and advice participants in their experimental work.