10-Year-Old Wins National Chemistry Challenge

By Jessica Brown — June 25, 2015 2 min read
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An Ohio 10-year-old made history this week, by becoming the youngest student ever to win the national You Be The Chemist Challenge.

Daniel Liu, a 7th grader at Ottawa Hills Junior High School in Ottawa Hills, Ohio, took home the title June 22 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

The point of the event, like other national academic competitions, is to get more middle school students interested in particular topics. In this case, it’s science. Such contests (we’ve written about others such as the National Geography Bee, the International Science and Engineering Fair, and the National History Day competition) are good ways to engage students and make learning fun. This one also came with some pretty nice prizes. The students placing in the top four won academic scholarships totaling $18,500 and TI-84+ Graphing calculators.

The competition is attractive to companies in the chemistry industry as well. It offers them an opportunity to get involved with schools and other organizations in their communities and presumably get more face time with future leaders in the profession. The competition was created by the Chemical Educational Foundation. The Dow Chemical Company was the leading sponsor.

The You Be The Chemist Challenge is a quiz-bowl-style competition for students in grades 5-8. Nearly 40,000 students participated at the local and state levels this year. Liu was among 36 to advance to the national competition, which included 11 rounds of chemistry questions.

Liu, who was dwarfed by the oversized $10,000 check he won, smiled and pumped both fists in the air when he won the final round, according to reports.

The Chemical Educational Foundation does more than just organize the competition. It also offers resources for teachers who want to add the challenge to their classroom curriculum. Teachers can download (free) activity guides containing nearly 1,000 pages of educator-reviewed experiments, activity sheets, supplements, and a resource guide. The content aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Organizers hope the event will prompt more students to enter science-related careers.

“We’re excited about the passion these student competitors have displayed at such a young age for chemistry and the sciences and look forward to the ways in which their discoveries and inventions will change the world around them,” said John Rice, the executive director of the Arlington-based Chemical Educational Foundation, in a statement.

Photo from the Chemical Educational Foundation

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.