Students up to scientific challenge

By on March 2, 2016

 

By Laura Knowles

How many protons, neutrons and electrons make up a subatomic particle of an ion with a charge of 2+?

When does a 2 kg ball have the greatest potential energy? Is water vapor changing to ice an UntitledLRexample of condensation, or is it nitrogen gas changing to liquid nitrogen? Do molecules move at a faster rate when water is heated?

If you are not quite sure, or you have no clue, don’t let it bother you that seventh and eighth graders like Khalid Brelvi, Sequoia Horning and Tyler Shue do know the answers to these chemistry questions. And they know a lot more than that.

They are among 14 Ephrata Middle School students participating in the Chemical Educational Foundation’s You Be the Chemist Challenge, which is locally sponsored by Brenntag North America in Reading.

On Feb. 18, the 13-and 14-year-olds took part in the first stage of the challenge. That was a qualifying round, at which the three top students were named. After that, it will be on to the Core of Chemistry Local Challenge, which will be held at the Manheim Central School District in March. The next stage for top students will be to go on to the Chemistry Connections State Challenge in Philadelphia and then the Chemistry Concepts in Action National Challenge.

It’s the first year that Ephrata Middle School has participated in the nationwide chemistry challenge. All 14 students in the qualifying round will be going to the Manheim competition, where they will compete with about 16 other students for a total of 30 or more.

Their advisor, Ephrata Middle School language arts teacher Jennifer Trout, participated in the challenge for four years when she was teaching at the Wilson School District. Trout, by the way, graduated from Ephrata High School in 2000.

“I am also certified to teach science,” she pointed out. “And STEM education is so critical to the future of our students. I am impressed that Brenntag supports students in the sciences.”

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Nina Basile of Brenntag explained that one of the reasons the company supports the You Be the Chemist Challenge is that it provides a basis for future scientists.

“Who knows, maybe some of these young chemists will grow up to work at Brenntag someday,” said Basile.

That might just be the case for Khalid Brelvi, who wants to be a scientist. He placed first in the challenge round at Ephrata. Sequoia Horning was second, and Tyler Shue was third.

“I have always liked science,” said Shue. “I plan to be a chemist or a hydrologist.”

Seventh grader Sydney Kochel is another student who loves chemistry. It’s a good thing too. She wants to go into nursing, and chemistry can be one of the toughest challenges for nursing students.

Amanda Garner might be a chemist or a paleontologist one day. Hannah Santosus would like to be a special education teacher and hopes to pass on her love of science to her students. Kevin Gallagher is interested in becoming a scientist or a chemist. Luke Andes hopes to be a kindergarten teacher.

“I think I did pretty well. It was harder than I thought it would be,” said 14-year-old Abby Krantz. “I would like to be a scientist…and a comedian.”

The middle schoolers didn’t just show up for the 50-question multiple choice test. They studied for many weeks. Back in October, they spent every Thursday at the middle school library, preparing to meet the challenge. Later, they studied twice a week, using study packets prepared by Trout through Brenntag and the Chemical Educational Foundation.

At the Feb. 18 qualifying round, they had the opportunity to prepare for the regional competition. The questions were presented in five sets of 10. They were multiple choice questions about everything from reactivity to molecules to protons to potential energy. The questions appeared on a screen. Assistant principal Gregg Shulenberger was moderator, with associate principal Russ Garman as judge. Ben Rossman, K-12 technology integration specialist, reviewed the questions. The students had 10 seconds to respond by pressing the buttons of a handheld device.

“Chemistry is an exciting field with great potential. My brother is a chemist and he has had opportunities in Germany and all over the world,” said EMS principal Kevin Deemer. “We are very proud of our students who have taken this chemistry challenge.”

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