You Be The Chemist Shows Cool Side of Science
Dow employee Lolita Tillery-Grant has college degrees in chemistry, physics and chemical engineering, yet when she served as a judge at a recent You Be The Chemist (YBTC) Challenge, she was surprised to find she didn’t know all the answers.
“I may have been eliminated by Round 3 myself,” Grant chuckled. “The kids are so knowledgeable. It’s amazing what they know.”
Grant works at Dow’s site in Hahnville, Louisiana. She was one of several employees who volunteered at the third annual Dow St. Charles Parish You Be the Chemist Challenge® in February. More than 100 parents, teachers, students and community members were there as top middle school students from around the area put their chemistry knowledge to the test in the emotionally charged competition.
The Chemical Education Foundation’s YBTC program focuses on inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and chemical industry leaders. As an important part of its commitment to building the workforce of tomorrow, Dow is a top national sponsor of YBTC and sponsors many local challenges around the country. Through Dow's support, almost 10,000 students from 12 states participated in the YBTC program in 2015.
YBTC begins in schools, with free preparation materials and support for teachers and students.
“The idea is to get kids excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), so it’s all very hands-on,” explained Courtney Amato, an engineer at Dow’s site in Plaquemine, Louisiana, who visits schools in the area to do science demonstrations. “Sometimes, science and engineering are thought of as dry. They think it’s all about numbers and sitting in a little room. They don’t realize how cool it is.”
Students in participating classrooms take a written test, and the top scorers from each class qualify for the exciting local Challenge event.
“It’s a blast for the kids, obviously, but it’s also a blast for the parents and for the judges,” Amato said. “My favorite part is how excited the kids get and how competitive they are. They’re good natured about it, but they want to win. It’s like a sports competition.”
It took seven rounds of questions to crown the champion at the St. Charles Parish Challenge. Zachary Jaubert, a student at St. Charles Borromeo school, finished first, followed by Gage Fleming of J.B. Martin and Connor Myers of St. Charles Borromeo. That qualifies them for the State Challenge at Louisiana State University in April.
Meanwhile, students are competing at similar local challenges all over the country. The winner of each state competition qualifies to compete in the National Challenge held in Philadelphia in June.