With styrofoam molecular models, colorful posters, and goggles in hand, the JPS Chemistry Physics Club boarded the school bus to embark on their journey to the 27th annual NJ Chemistry Olympics. Held at NJIT on May 17, the NJ Chemistry Olympics is a competition that challenges students to apply their chemistry knowledge to hands-on labs and demonstrations in six different events, ranging from chemical engineering to molecular dye construction. As described by junior Kiran Wattamwar, “The Chemistry Olympics was a fun way to apply your knowledge outside the classroom.”
Senior Andy Shi, junior David Zhou, and sophomore Sakib Jalal, members of the JPS Alpha Team subdivision, competed in a chemistry research demonstration involving enzyme catalyzed reactions. Using a catalase found in potatoes to speed up the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, the JPS Alpha team put in several chunks of the vegetable into a test tube to analyze the effect of pH on enzyme concentration. Sophomores Sudeepti Vedula, Yamini Vyas, and Anushree Sreedhar, in the Beta team subdivision, competed in the same event and presented their informational brochure and poster to the judges.
Juniors Kiran Wattamwar, Rajvi Shah, and Anshu Patel put together a successful demonstration, called “Genie in a Bottle,” on exothermic and endothermic reactions and secured a fifth place win for the Alpha team. The Beta team subdivision’s sophomores Sudeepti Vedula, Yamini Vyas, and Anushree Sreedhari, participated in the event as well, carrying out the “Dragon’s Breath” experiment: a reaction between Sour Patch Kids candy and potassium chlorate, which produced colorful pink lights.
Meanwhile, juniors Christie Chang and Sharon Lin of the Alpha team, and sophomores Azeem Malik and Radheshwar Arora of the Beta team, participated in an information search and molecular model building competition on chemical dyes. Other assignments given to the teams required them to design a mechanism to interrupt a power circuit using a timed chemical reaction as the driving force. In addition, JPS students took part in an analytical lab in which the total hardness of water using indicators and titration was determined.
Participants for the Olympics were not restricted to molecular building or laboratory demonstrations to show off their talents. Rather, one unique event consisted of a written short answer test involving the nomenclature of organic and inorganic chemical compounds. The JPS team for this event, which consisted of senior Andy Shi and juniors David Zhou and Kiran Wattamwar, answered the difficult questions of the exam and won fifth.
The most valuable lesson was not taught by the competition itself, but by the weeks leading up to the Olympics, as competitors not only increased their scientific knowledge, but also discovered a new passion for chemistry. “Preparing for this competition exposed me to various chemical researches and applications, which also proved to be an opportunity for me to gather ideas for my future career in science,” sophomore Sudeepti Vedula expressed. “Being exposed to new learning experiences during the Olympics further amplified my love for chemistry.”
The Chemistry Olympics proved to be a great chance for participants to apply the chemistry learned in class to various situations by involving higher level thinking. The teams’ chaperones, Mrs. Lumsden and Ms. Pittenger, remarked, “The talent and enthusiasm of our team members made the day worthwhile. We learned valuable lessons and overall, we think it was a positive experience for all involved.”
Event 1 chem research: enzyme catalyzed reactions
Alpha: Andy, David, Sakib
Beta: sudeepti, anushree, yamini
Event 3 engineering research:
Alpha: Steven, Vishal
Beta: Azeem, Chola
Event 5 exo or endo reaction
Alpha: Kiran, Rajvi, Anshu
Beta: Sudeepti, Anushree, Yamini
Event 6 chemical nomenclature
Alpha: Andy, David, Kiran
Beta: Zahra, Gurleen, Ankita
Event 7 info search & molecular building
Alpha: Christie, Sharon
Beta: Rad, Azeem
Event 8: analytical lab: determine water hardness
Beta: Rad, Tiffany, Nidhi
Event 10: microscale lab
Alpha: Vishal, Vigneshwar