Future STEM leaders rise to challenge at national science contest in Houston

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022
STEM students rise to challenge at national science contest
The Chemistry Enthusiasts, of Massachusetts, were declared the winners of the 2022 National You Be the Chemist Challenge Monday night.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Some of the nation's brightest young minds were in Houston Monday competing against each other in the name of science.

Nineteen students making up five teams from across the country appeared on stage for the National You Be the Chemist Challenge at the Westin Memorial City.

Under the theme of "States of Matter in Space," the Chemical Educational Foundation hosted panel interviews with each team to determine this year's winners.

Four students from Massachusetts, the Chemistry Enthusiasts, rose to the top to win the 2022 challenge. The team of Aaryan Arora, Srinidhi Iyer, Aarushi Khatri and Shakthi Saravanan also walked away with $12,000 in scholarships.

You sit and think, 'These are only eighth graders,' and it feels as though you're having a lecture from a college professor who knows the science," said Dr. Calvin Emanuel, vice president and general manager of Net Zero Solutions at Ecolab. "I think for me, it makes it clear there is a bright future for all of us with students like these in science."

Each student who reached nationals helped produce a 3-5 minute video on this year's theme, beating out 9,000 competitors from the fifth through eighth grades.

"We are so proud of our You Be The Chemist Challenge participants. The passion for science that the challenge nurtures and the teamwork demonstrated will help serve as a strong foundation for their education and careers," said CEF Executive Director Dwayne Sattler.

Students competed for scholarships that will help them go on to pursue chemistry and STEM-related fields.

Princeton Charter School from New Jersey took second place and $8,000 in scholarships, while Jefferson Middle School from Michigan won third, for a total of $4,000 in scholarships.

"Seventy percent of the jobs that are going to be available by the time they graduate college don't even exist today," said Nicole Dominguez, a science teacher at Hamilton Middle School in Cy-Fair ISD. "They all kind of the fall within that field of science, technology, engineering and math, so it's important to push that, but also to prove that anyone can do it."

The young competitors were also treated to a tour of chemical company Univar Solution's labs, dinner and an awards ceremony.

PHOTOS: 2022 National You Be the Chemist Challenge

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Terry Hill, CEO of Barentz North America and chair of the CEF board of trustees, said the competition draws awareness for STEM education in schools.

"We just are not generating enough diverse STEM-educated people," Hill said. "Twenty-three percent of the workforce in a general population needs to be technically qualified, and we're just not generating enough, so for us, we started at the root of the problem and are really introducing chemistry at the grade school level to really help inspire passion for that."

ABC13 Houston was proud to serve as official news sponsor of the challenge.

National Finalists for 2022 National You Be the Chemist Challenge

Plum Grove Junior High, Illinois

Leroy Jung

Ryan Kim

Ethan Liu

Catherine Qin

Chemistry Enthusiasts, Massachusetts

Aaryan Arora

Srinidhi Iyer

Aarushi Khatri

Shakthi Saravanan

Jefferson Middle School, Michigan

Kanushi Desai

Emma Huang

Louis Huang

Seian Koh

Princeton Charter School, New Jersey

Sonya Bachurina

Joanna Hou

Lilly Ludewig

Emilie Shen

Kamiakin Middle School, Washington

Karan Khanolkar

Varun Patankar

Vijay Patankar

Dharveen Suntheresen