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Project iLASER is an endeavor to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry, supported by a generous grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (grant no. CHE 1118663).

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

News from Nogales

Here's the location from where I'm currently writing (Click to enlarge image).
It never ceases to amaze me how rapidly time passes and how it seems to accelerate incessantly.  Has it really been nearly four months since that first post on this blog?  Yikes!  This summer has been a non-stop, fast-forward adventure!  I'm sitting in the Holiday Inn Express in beautiful Nogales, AZ, just about 3 or 4 km north of the U.S.-Mexico border, getting ready for an event in a few hours at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Cruz County --- the 5th Project iLASER event --- and I'm just now able to catch my breath and update this blog.

The summer was filled with travel to multiple conferences and conducting workshops.  June was consumed with travel to Washington, D.C. for an NSF Broadening Impact Conference and preparations for the two workshops in back-to-back weeks in July: a workshop on Materials Science and Nanotechnology held at Southwestern College (SWC) and a workshop in Reno, NV on NSF proposal preparation for two-year college STEM educators.

August and September have been a blur of travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico for the IUPAC World Chemistry Congress, the ACS National Meeting in Denver and to amazing Querétaro, Mexico for the annual Congress of the Chemical Society of Mexico (La Sociedad Química de México)

Three days after returning from San Juan, on August 11, a very successful kick-off event for Project iLASER was held at the Boys & Girls Club of Chula Vista, CA.   Ms. Diane Taylor and all the staff at the club were very supportive and helpful, and the children at the club (some of whom will undoubtedly become future solar scientists and engineers!) were wonderfully enthusiastic about the hands-on fun and made the start to Project iLASER fantastic.
Here's a glimpse of some solar fun in the warm Chula Vista sun!

A huge amount of gratitude is also expressed to the project volunteers who came and rolled up their sleeves to pitch in and to Congressman Bob Filner, who also participated in the science fun that day.  Many, many thanks to Carolyn Patterson from the Caltech CCI Solar for driving down from Pasadena to volunteer at the event and for also taking some really great PHOTOS of the activities.

Project iLASER events were held at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Imperial Valley in Brawley, CA and El Centro, CA on August 17 and 18, respectively.  Photos from those events can be found by clicking the following links for Brawley and El Centro.  The children and staff at the clubs were a lot of fun and exceedingly good troopers to endure the August temperatures in the Imperial Valley in the neighborhood of 115 deg. F. (46 deg. C).  Of course we limited the time spent outdoors to short periods, but the "heat" didn't detract from the experience with the "cool" solar science activities!

The local newspaper, the Imperial Valley Press, visited the event in El Centro and published an ARTICLE, which contains some wonderful comments by children, regarding their enjoyment of the hands-on science adventures.  I love it!!  Engaging young minds, creativity and imagination in scientific endeavors, particularly those related to using sunlight to power the planet, is what Project iLASER is ALL about, folks!!  The Chicago Tribune also picked up the same ARTICLE

My head is still spinning from the events of the past week.  I returned from Querétaro 7 days ago, on the eventing of Thursday September 15.  Friday I picked up the U-Haul cargo van, spent much of Saturday and part of Sunday loading and securing the materials and supplies to be used and distributed to the various institutions from one end of the border to the other and left Sunday afternoon for Yuma, AZ.

Monday a Project iLASER event was held at the Carpe Diem Academy in Yuma, and Tuesday I spent a good portion of the morning working in a chemistry lab at Arizona Western College to prepare more electrodes for the dye-sensitized solar cells for the children to construct and test.  Thanks to my friend and Project iLASER partner, Professor Scott Donnelly for allowing me access to the lab.  Tuesday afternoon/evening I made the trek from Yuma to Nogales, and yesterday I visited the Boys & Girls Club to discuss the plans and logistics for today's event.  This project is providing me with a life in perpetual motion, and I have a post-it note on the van's dashboard reminding me to breathe! :)

There's the van with the SWC Chemistry building in the background.
And the flip side of the van, of course promoting IYC 2011!
Speaking of the U-Haul van, I want to extend my gratitude to Ms. Melina López, former SWC student and current U-Haul guru, who helped me greatly with the arrangements to acquire the van.  I am also grateful for the generous rate the U-Haul company provided me, in support of Project iLASER.

Well, I'm running out of time for today's entry.  I still need to work on some preparations for today's event and check out of the hotel.  Soon I'll be surrounded by the children and staff at the Boys & Girls Club here in Nogales, watching them smile and be amazed by the process of using sunlight to provide clean, sustainable energy to power the planet.  Could I be more blessed than to have such a calling and an opportunity to carry out this project?  I don't think so... :)

This weekend I'll regroup (laundry, supplies and blogging) in Las Cruces, NM and will give accounts of the events in Yuma and Nogales.  Until then, stay tuned...

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