By CHRIS KIM, sophomore, and ANUSHREE SREEDHAR, junior
May 16, 2013 will live fondly in the memories of the members of the JP Stevens Science and Technology club as the date of the 2013 New Jersey Chemistry Olympics. Members of the club which is more commonly known as SciTech began to prepare for the competition soon after the Physics Olympics had ended in January.
24 students, selected through an application-based process, met up in groups to perfect the projects for their respective events. After months of trial and error, victory and defeat, practice and labor, SciTech proudly represented JP Stevens at the 28th Chemistry Olympics at NJIT. The JP Alpha and Beta teams competed in six events that included performing acid-base titrations, building a molecular model with styrofoam balls, responding to research questions, and — arguably the most innovative activity — constructing a vehicle that would travel a specific distance and stop due to a chemical reaction.
One of the Beta teams, consisting of sophomores Nina D’Amiano and Kavya Udupa and junior Ravi Agrawal, won third place with the Briggs-Rauscher Reaction for the Demonstration Show event. Requiring various solutions to be mixed, this complicated reaction is known for its volatile nature — an element that was unnerving for the team. The three members spent hours afterschool alongside the supportive advisors of SciTech creating and testing the solutions that were required, hoping each time that the concentrations were perfect for the reaction to occur. At first, during the presentation at the competition, it seemed as if the reaction failed to execute; however, luck was on the team’s side, and the reaction began to work as the color of the solution changed from dark blue to yellow and then back to dark blue. This amazing performance impressed the judges, who later spent one-on-one time with the team to discuss the complex step reactions that took place. “The hours of failure were worth it because when our names were called up for third place, the crazy emotions became a distant memory, and we felt euphoric for accomplishing such a difficult feat,” comments sophomore Kavya Udupa.
Meanwhile, sophomores Chris Kim and Amber Lin along with junior Sudeepti Vedula participated in the Environmental Research event, which this year focused on activated charcoal. The trio had to submit a report to NJIT discussing almost everything on the topic of activated charcoal, which included the chemistry behind its commercial uses. In addition to the research portion, a lab was conducted to test factors affecting the adsorptive capabilities of activated charcoal. Sophomore Chris Kim recounts, “While doing multiple trials at different temperatures seemed tedious, there was something about creating and performing your own labs. Call it a science high. I enjoyed the hands-on experience.” Chris, who often worked for long stretches of time in preparation during the weekends, facetiously adds, “I could probably make a living if I charged Ms. Lumsden for the hours I spent on my event, excluding taxes.” The team’s dedication was rewarded; the three students went on to contribute to the success of the JP teams, winning third place in their event at the competition.
Despite moments of anxiety and tension throughout the day, the students nevertheless managed to find a reprieve from the day’s intense competition. Taking full advantage of the weather, the entire JP Stevens team played outside on NJIT’s campus. Even during the recreational experience, the competitive spirit was always present; the JP team played a soccer match with a competitor James Caldwell High School — and won, of course.
Sophomore Siddharth Hariharan summarized his thoughts, “The preparation prior to the competition was stressful and at times overwhelming, but the experience at the competition was unforgettable. The bonds that we have formed as a club are truly unique; I always find myself back in the chemistry rooms in the B wing wanting to talk to the students of SciTech.”
Hopefully, experiences such as this one will continue to bring prosperity to the newly formed SciTech club. Here’s to another successful year of dedication and hard work.