Hamburg Area Middle School eighth graders Evan Grim and Alex Baum placed 2nd and 3rd, respectively, among 44 Berks County students in the “You be the Chemist” Challenge at the Penn State Berks Campus on March 4. They will both go on to the state competition at Penn State Main campus in April.
“It feels pretty good,” said Evan about winning.
“I was really excited because I’m excited to go to states,” said Alex.
“We’ll be studying every night,” to prepare for the state You Be the Chemist Challenge, said Evan.
Alex explained what the Berks County challenge was like.
“We go up on stage ... and we’ll click in our answer but once you get to the final round with five contestants you’ll go up with these cards and show your answers to the judges and to everyone else,” said Alex. “This time we also had to go through a tie-breaker round.”
“They describe it like a quiz bowl,” said Evan. “It’s kind of nerve wracking, honestly. It wasn’t necessarily fun but it’s a great experience.”
Evan said the game show set up and being on stage adds a bit more of a challenge to the competition because of the added nerves.
Beside the nerves, they both learned more about chemistry through the challenge.
“I learned a lot from just studying for it. It opened my mind to the sciences,” said Evan.
“I have a better understanding,” added Alex.
They like science.“It’s everything around us. Everything you do is basically science,” said Evan. “You can do anything with science.”
“I like experiments and you get to know more about the world around you through science so I like that aspect of it,” said Alex.
“It’s like looking through a totally different aspect of life when you learn a lot of science,” said Evan.
They said participating in the Chemist Challenge has helped them tremendously.
“I wasn’t really interested in science before I did it so I got interested in science outside the competition,” said Evan who has aspirations to go into a science field in the future.
Alex is interested in neuroscience. She has had concussions and she would like to know more about how it affects you, more than just the headaches and nausea.
Hamburg teacher Mary Sweeney has been entering Hamburg Area Middle School students in the “You be the Chemist” competition for seven years.
“I was contacted by a Brenntag employee, Kim Keith, who told me about the contest. The contest is nationwide and has three levels: county, state and national,” said Sweeney. “You Be the Chemist gives us materials to study from as well as manuals with science experiments in them. Previous years, we studied after school, but this year, Alex and Evan studied during our Gifted Support class as well as at home.”
This is the 4th year that Alex and Evan competed in the contest. They started when they were in 5th grade. Alexandria placed 5th last year.
“I was overjoyed when they both placed in the top three, especially since this would be their last competition - what a way to go out! Although, I was not surprised,” said Sweeney. “They are both advanced math students and I believe this helped them a lot, along with their ability to grasp concepts quickly and apply them to new situations. I think this experience has taught them that success comes with practice and perseverance.”