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Students shine in chemistry competition

March 9, 2016
KOKOMO, Ind. — What do Cheerios, shredded wheat, and corn flakes have to do with chemistry?

For a dozen middle school students, breakfast cereal provided a chance to show their understanding of volume and density, as part of the annual You Be the Chemist competition Saturday. (March 5)

The Indiana University Kokomo School of Sciences hosts the annual event to support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education for students starting at a young age.

“All of us who love science know that ‘doing science’ is primarily a hands-on activity,” said Marcia Gillette, adjunct faculty member in chemistry. “This competition provides the students with an age-appropriate foundation in chemistry, to grow their interest in sciences, and encourage them to take the math and science classes available at their schools, to prepare them for STEM-related careers.”

Gillette served as moderator for the competition, reading questions for the competing chemists as they appeared on the Kresge Auditorium screen. Students had about 10 seconds to choose one of the multiple choice answers, making selections with a clicker.

They answered questions such as “How is a particle with eight protons, 10 neutrons, and eight electrons classified (as an oxygen 18 isotope)?,” and “Elements in which group tend to gain electrons during a chemical reaction (halogens)?”

After three rounds, each student received a sandwich bag filled with cereal, beans, and chocolate chips, and had five minutes to calculate the volume and density of each, and fill a snack sized bag with the heaviest possible cereals and snacks.

“This helps show the bigger picture, and that science is more than academic study,” said Gillette. “You can apply what you learn, because chemistry is hands-on.”

Competition continued after the challenge, to narrow the field to the winner and three runners up, who will continue to the state You Be the Chemist challenge, sponsored by the Chemical Education Foundation.

Andrea Reeder, an eighth grader from Western Middle School, won the competition. Runners up were Gene Yang, first; Megan Morris, second; and Bradley Fouch, third. The runners up all are eighth graders at Central Middle International School, Kokomo.

The School of Sciences also hosts the Howard County Science Fair every February for nearly 100 young scientists, and invites area middle school students to its free Science Rocks! camp each June.

“These events provide exciting ways for young students to become involved in science,” said Dean Christian Chauret. “It is always a pleasure to welcome them to campus, to get them more engaged in scholarly activities.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 03/09/2016