You Be the Chemist: A Passport to Science Education

Will Y., Staff Writer

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Photo by Will Y. School Level YBTC Winners(from left to right) Will Y., Mason. Y., and Hugh S. Not pictured: Dennis L. and Arjun P.

Have you ever wondered how balloons float? They are filled with helium, a substance that is lighter than air. If you like to learn the science behind elements like helium, the You Be the Chemist Challenge can help you do so.

You Be the Chemist is a chemistry competition that all eighth graders are encouraged to participate in. In addition, sixth and seventh graders are also able to take the contest upon request. Students can advance to regional, state, and national levels. The school-level contains basic questions about chemistry and general science.

You Be The Chemist is run by the Chemical Educational Foundation. According to its website, its purpose is to introduce chemistry to students who might not study it until later in high school.

Every Monday, the YBTC club meets in Gary Jones’s room at 3:15. The club is entirely student run and was founded in the fall of 2017 by Ridings B., a current junior.

He said, “You learn about chemistry and it[You Be the Chemist] is very exciting. It helps you with problem solving and your scientific reasoning.” Ridings said that most schools don’t sign up their students for YBTC as Westminster does.

You Be the Chemist is a unique opportunity for students to expand their knowledge about chemistry.

This year, at the school level competition within Westminster, eighth graders Mason Y. and Dennis L. tied for first place, Will Y. finished in second, and Hugh S. placed third. Along with these four, Arjun P. will also advance to regionals.

Some physical science teachers require all of their students to take the contest. Others allow students to opt out of the competition. However, it is highly encouraged, as Westminster students often do well.

Ryan C., an eighth grade boy generally likes the quiz. He said, “It’s a good idea because kids might not develop an interest in chemistry otherwise.”

However, he expressed his frustration with the age restriction, as he was too old to advance.

An eighth grade girl, Alyse H., says that her opinion of the contest was neutral. “It was ok, not my favorite thing,” she said.

This attitude is shared by Hugh S., an eighth grade boy. He said that he didn’t mind the contest; however, he sees how the quiz can be beneficial to people who take it. He said: “You might want to know that stuff. You can gain knowledge through it.”

Many students said that they were told about the competition only 2-3 days before. In a more extreme case, Hugh S. said that he was told a day before the contest. However, eighth grade students interviewed said that they were aware of the contest in general, but not the exact date.

Proper preparation seems to be lacking. Out of students surveyed, around 90 percent said they only studied less than one day before the contest.

In high school, students can continue their exploration of science in general by participating in the school teams for Science Bowl and Science Olympiad. One can also sign up individually for Olympiads on particular categories.

Through its competitive spirit and its educational nature, the You Be the Chemist Challenge is both a passport to future learning about science related topics and an opportunity for students to boost their confidence.

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