Chemistry Olympics: Putting the ‘pro’ in proton

Loras hosts annual Chemistry Olympics to high-schoolers for a day of science

On Friday, April 20, Loras’ chemistry department hosted approximately 80 high school students in the St. Joseph Hall of Science for the annual Chemistry Olympics. These students were from local high schools, such as Dubuque Senior, as well as from farther locations such as Mt. Vernon and Davenport. A total of 17 separate teams from nine different high schools were in attendance — the highest number of participants that these games have ever seen. The number of attendees has been rising every year as the Olympics increases its reach across Iowa.

Photo by Audrey Miller — Two local high school students conduct an experiment as they compete to win the Loras scholarship prize and to have a day in a college science lab.

“I think it’s awesome that high schools are able to get involved,” said junior biochemistry major Skye Miller about the Chemistry Olympics after helping out with events during the day. “When I was a student in high school, I had no idea the Chemistry Olympics existed. Now my high school is here competing.”

One team from Beckman Catholic, Miller’s alma mater, took third place overall in the competition after a member of one of their teams took first place in the Solution Density Drop, just one of the events of the day.

The Chemistry Olympics is a day full of chemical reactions, scientific techniques, and fierce-yet-friendly competition. It includes a variety of chemistry-based competitions including a solution density drop, chemical jeopardy, a titration race, solution identification and a game medley. Stakes were high as each team used their chemistry knowledge to compete in each game for the Olympic Title and potentially win a scholarship to Loras.

Each member of the winning team received a significant scholarship, as did the overall winner of each game. But the financial incentive was not the only positive outcome of the day. The Chemistry Olympics reaches out to high school students and gives them opportunities to use and enhance their science background, opportunities that they might not have gotten otherwise.

“It gives them great exposure to college, and to Loras,” sophomore Sarah Krieger said. “I wish I would have had the opportunity to do this when I was in high school — to be in a college lab setting and use the tools that we have here.”

The directors of the Chemistry Olympics — students Zach Ney and Sarah Krieger, along with chemistry faculty member Dr. Adam Moser — have been working hard for months to make this day a success. The overall winning team from the day was a team from Dubuque Senior, defending their 2017 title and six-year winning streak, taking the 2018 title as the top chemists of the competition. Second place went to a team from Potosi, and third went to a team from Beckman.

Dr. Speckhard, a chemistry faculty member and seasoned Chemistry Olympics leader, knows how important these games are for promoting the chemistry field.

“It’s a positive day for the high school students to encounter other students … who are farther along in their science careers,” Dr. Speckhard said. “It makes a generally-perceived ‘dry’ subject more engaging. The Olympics are also positive for Loras because it promotes our science program, as well as reinforces the alumni connections we have at local high schools.”

 

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