Six local middle school winners and one alternate from the Grundy and LaSalle County Challenge sites headed to Northwestern University’s Evanston Campus on April 27 to join 24 other contestants in the state competition of the “You Be the Chemist Challenge.”
Only one would emerge the winner and advance to the national competition at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia on June 24, followed by a celebration dinner at the National Constitution Center.
Although all local students gave it their best, Nathan Kim, a sixth-grader from DesPlaines, won for Illinois. The day was not lost, however, since contestants and their families were also treated to special tours of several campus research labs before the competition (which included a spectacular view of Lake Michigan while they walked from one lab to another) and viewed science demonstrations during the competition.
Krishi Korrapati, a Springfield open registration student who played for Grundy County, finished in third place and Jared Roth, of Saratoga School in Morris, persevered almost to a placing position. All of the students gave it their best and were great representatives for Grundy and LaSalle Counties.
The students were bombarded with questions read by Professor Mike Davis, Chicago City Colleges, who also performed science demonstrations while the contestants nervously awaited the results from each round. Some favorites were burning dollar bills and making little explosions and this year there were “smoking graham crackers.” Frozen by liquid nitrogen, the grahams were handed out to the audience who popped them in their mouths and blew out smoke just like in winter.
Other local contestants were: Cal Smolik, Coal City Middle School; Grant Granby, Seneca Grade School; Michael Cuevas and Jordan Veracini, Oglesby-Washington Junior High, and Esther Mathew, from downstate Dunlap Middle School. Eden Dennis of Mazon-Verona-Kinsman did not compete due to illness.
The local level for the Illinois Valley group would be lost without the continued support of the sponsoring companies who promote science education: Air Products and Chemicals, Aux Sable Liquid, AkzoNobel, Carus Corporation, Exelon-Dresden Station, Flint Hills Resources-Peru, LyondellBasell and PQ Corporation. In addition to sponsorship funds, several companies such as Aux Sable Liquid, AkzoNobel, Exelon and Flint Hills Resources, gave token gifts to the regional participants as well.
For more information about this fun and educational contest, contact regional coordinator, Patricia Neff of Morris, (815) 634-2370, or visit the Chemical Educational Foundation’s website, www.chemed.org.