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The right chemistry

Open-registration students win county contests

SENECA, Ill. — Results are in from the Grundy County and the La Salle County competitions for the 9th Annual “You Be the Chemist Challenge (YBTCC),” which was held Monday, Feb. 11, in Seneca.

Winners and runner ups from eight area middle schools, plus two downstate open registration students, competed on the two county teams together and separately.

This was the pilot location for this national contest, now in its ninth year.

Open registration students were new this year and had qualified through a test in January from among 30 students throughout the state who vied for the opportunity. Two of the three winners were sent to the Grundy/La Salle site and assigned to a county.

Each of them won first place for their county team, even though they are not local.

The winners were:

Grundy County Team

1st Place – Krishi Korrapati, 8th Grade, Franklin Middle School, Springfield, Ill.

2nd Place – Jared Roth, 8th Grade, Saratoga Middle School, Morris, Ill.

3rd Place – Eden Dennis, 8th Grade, Mazon/Verona/Kinsman Elementary, Mazon, Ill.

Alternate – Cal Smolik, 8th Grade, Coal City Middle School, Coal City, Ill.

La Salle County Team

1st Place – Esther Mathew, 6th Grade, Dunlap Middle School, Dunlap, Ill.

2nd Place – Michael Cuevas, 8th Grade, Oglesby Washington Junior High, Oglesby, Ill.

3rd Place – Grant Granby, 8th Grade, Seneca Elementary, Seneca, Ill.

Alternate – Jordan Veracini, 8th Grade, Oglesby Washington Junior High, Oglesby, Ill.

Several area companies are the local sponsors of this contest. They include Air Products & Chemicals, AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry, Aux Sable Liquids, Carus Corporation, Exelon-Dresden Station, Flint Hills Resources, LyondellBasell, and PQ Corporation. Several of those companies sponsor other local and state levels, as well as the national contest, which is in Philadelphia in June.

Prizes at the competition were a Kindle Fire for the winners and a $50 gift card for the runners-up of each county. First- through fourth-place county winners received medallions.

In addition, all contestants took home $25 gift certificated and bags of various donated items from Aux Sable Liquids, Exelon-Dresden Station, Flint Hills Resources, and AkzoNobel.

Previously, at the school level of the competition, the first-place winner won a laptop, and the second place student won a $50 gift certificate. All school-level participants (600 from this region) will also win token gifts.

Winners Jared Roth, Eden Dennis and Grant Granby were no strangers to this contest.

Roth and Granby competed at the state level last year, after all three competed at the regional.

All three top winners of each county will now advance to the next level (state), and the alternates (4th place students) will compete in a play-in round for four open spots at the state contest on April 27. There are currently eight sites in Illinois, to make a total of twenty-eight contestants at the state contest.

It will be at Northwestern University, on the Evanston Campus, where the contestants will also get tours of science labs and the campus.

Because this contest was an outreach project of the La Salle/Peru/Utica Community Advisory Panel (LPU CAP), judges are from one of the CAPs of the sponsoring companies. Judges for the night were Professor Bob Byrne (head judge and member of the La Salle/Peru/Utica CAP), Tom Willeford (AkzoNobel Engineer and AkzoNobel CAP member), and CAP members Jo Ann Hustis (AkzoNobel CAP), Joan Soltwisch (AkzoNobel & LyondellBasell CAPs), and Kim Goffinet (LyondellBasell CAP).
Longtime reader for the event was Fran Ogden (science teacher, Seneca High School). The questions are compiled each year by teams of scientists, graduate students, and others who work through the Chemical Educational Foundation (CEF), the national organizers of the contest.

Question banks are changed each year for every level and not used again for five years. The banks get bigger and bigger each year as it gets harder to stump the students who come to this contest. 

Opening comments were made by Senator Sue Rezin of the 38th District and State Representative Pam Roth of the 75th District, although Rep. Roth was anxious for the contest to begin since her son, Jared, was a contestant.

They were followed by Mark Biel, executive director of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois (CICI), who gave a short talk about the business of chemistry in the state and careers in science to start the future scientists in the room thinking.  CICI sponsors the state contest under the auspices of the Illinois Education Foundation.

They also put on a Career Conference every year at the Museum of Science in Industry in Chicago in which Aux Sable Liquids, AkzoNobel, Carus Corporation and LyondellBasell participate. Area high school students are dazzled there by science and chemistry demonstrations.

Several YBTCC teachers were there to cheer their students on. They included Glen Flodstrom from Oglesby Washington, who had both his students place; Gina Piatak, Coal City Middle School; Darcy Welsh, Mazon/Verona/Kinsman; Sally Readle, Minooka Junior High; Sherri Pannier, dean of students, Parkside Middle School (Peru); and Principal Shane Severson of Seneca Elementary. 

For more information on the local contest, call Regional Coordinator Pat Neff at (815) 634-2370 or visit CEF’s website to see a video on science and this program, pictures and information from previous contests , and various opportunities for teachers and students at   

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