You Be the Chemist Challenge scheduled at Southeastern Jan. 31

Thursday, January 16, 2014
by: Rene Abadie

HAMMOND – Approximately 300 middle school students from nearly 20 Tangipahoa Parish public schools will converge on the Southeastern Louisiana University campus Friday, Jan. 31, to demonstrate their knowledge of chemistry concepts, important discoveries and chemical safety awareness.

The event – a regional You Be the Chemist Challenge – will be held in the University Center from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Sponsored by Bercen, Inc., a Denham Springs-based specialty chemical manufacturer, the event is being hosted jointly by the Southeastern Department of Chemistry and Physics and the Tangipahoa Parish School System. The challenge is run by the Chemical Education Foundation.

At the event, students in grades 5-8 from area schools will participate in classroom testing. Then the top teams will engage in the actual Challenge, a Quiz Bowl-type of competition using academic questions created by the Chemical Educational Foundation, explained project coordinator David Norwood, associate professor in the Southeastern Department of Chemistry and Physics.

The students will also view and participate in chemistry demonstrations presented by Southeastern students and faculty, Norwood added.

"The challenge provides students an exposure to chemistry and how it applies to their everyday lives. It helps them gain a greater appreciation of how chemistry shapes our world," said Norwood. "It's rewarding to see the students take such a strong interest in science, and we hope activities like this encourage them to seek careers in the sciences."

The 18 participating schools include Champ Cooper, Chesbrough Elementary, O.W. Dillion Elementary, Hammond Eastside, Hammond Junior, Hammond Westside, Independence Middle, Kentwood Junior, Loranger Middle, Natalbany Elementary, Nesom Middle, Ponchatoula Junior, Roseland Elementary, SLU Lab, Spring Creek Elementary, Sumner Middle, Vinyard Elementary and Westside Middle.

"Often students don't study much chemistry until they are midway through high school," said Southeastern chemistry instructor M. Georgina Little, one of the coordinators for the event. "The challenge exposes these younger students to some of the core ideas of chemistry by adding to what they are already studying in middle school science. They are better prepared when they walk into a Chemistry I high school class, and they can start thinking about career options in the chemical sciences."

"YBTC is an effective instructional program that exposes our students to science in their daily lives, stresses the importance of science curriculum, and introduces students to STEM careers," added Tangipahoa Parish School System STEM Coordinator Cecilia Lanier.

"The school YBTC contact selects participants based on the student's success in science courses and standardized tests," she continued. "Preparation for the district competition began early in the school year with the student selection process. Once students were identified, they were provided with study materials issued by the Chemical Education Foundation. Many of the schools held study sessions, school quiz bowl competitions, and inquiry-based lessons to prepare for the district event. TPSS is grateful that Bercen sponsors an opportunity for our students to compete and experience science outside of the textbook."

You Be the Chemist was created by the National Association of Chemical Distributors in 1989 to serve as the educational outreach segment of the chemical distribution industry. The event partners chemical industries with area schools.

The winner of the challenge at Southeastern will advance to the State Challenge to be held at LSU later in the spring. The winner of the state competition will compete in the National YBTC Challenge in Philadelphia in June.

For more information, contact Norwood by email at or at 985-549-3938.


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