Middle school students from across Maricopa County showed off their knowledge of chemistry concepts by competing for a spot in the Chemical Educational Foundation’s 10th annual National You Be The Chemist Challenge on Tuesday on the Tempe campus. Chemistry professor Jennifer Green hosted the event.
CEF is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization meant to boost education in science.
The event is an academic challenge that uses the structure of a competition to encourage middle school students to explore important chemistry concepts, scientific discoveries and laboratory concepts. CEF outreach assistant Elena Lien said ASU would host the local competition and the winner would go on to compete in the state competition and eventually the national competition.
The competition hosted by ASU was the Maricopa County Challenge.
“Around 25,000 middle school students compete,” she said. “This isn’t a science fair; it’s structured a lot like the National Spelling Bee.”
Lien said CEF organizes and hosts the National Challenge in Philadelphia. Each state winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the competition in June.
“This year is extra special because the competition is celebrating its 10th anniversary,” she said.
The Challenge program relies on partnerships with community members who seek to support student engagement with science.
Participation in the challenge is open to middle school students across the U.S. CEF produces the study materials and questions for each level of the competition. Students have the chance to study material on the CEF website.
The questions align with Next Generation Science Standards. They include basic science concepts that appear in many state assessments.
A team of chemical industry members, professors and curriculum specialists develop the questions.
Challenge questions and materials also integrate language arts and history concepts, which present chemistry questions in an educational and entertaining format.
CEF Executive Director John Rice said the challenge enlivens the learning engagement for students.
“CEF is continually impressed by Challenge participants’ grasp of scientific concepts and dedication to expanding their science knowledge,” he said. “As CEF celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Challenge, we are eager to see how past and future participants will contribute their talents to the scientific community.”
The top four participants in the local challenge received gift cards, trophies and other prizes.
The competition consisted of six rounds plus a practice round. There were four introductory rounds, a semi-final round and a championship round.
Participants were given clickers and instructed to answer chemistry questions formatted in a multiple choice setting. They were later given dry-erase boards to write their answers on in the final rounds.
This year, 15 students participated in the local challenge. Various numbers of students were eliminated after each introductory round, leaving four students to compete in the semi-final round and eventually two students in the championship round.
Center for Educational Excellence member Cheryl Hogan said those who tied were to compete in a lightning round.
“I think it’s really great to see these children have such great interest in chemistry and sciences,” she said.
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