Young innovators pitch futuristic products in Shark Tank-like STEM competition

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Thursday, June 15, 2023
Young innovators pitch futuristic products in Shark Tank-like contest
Five teams gathered Tuesday morning in Houston for the 2023 National You Be the Chemist Challenge, a team-based STEM competition for grades 5-8.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A team of Indiana middle schoolers, on a mission to keep humans and the planet safe from toxic dyes, are one step closer to seeing their dreams realized.

The Young Hoosier Chemistry Club emerged triumphant in Houston Tuesday night as they were declared winners of the 2023 National You Be the Chemist Challenge.

The fantastic four were among the young innovators who gathered in Memorial City for Chemical Educational Foundation's 19th annual STEM competition, which at times felt a lot like ABC's Shark Tank.

Tuesday morning, five teams made up of 18 students presented hypothetical products that could one day have big impacts to both the environment and humans alike.

PHOTOS: 2023 National You Be the Chemist Challenge

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The Young Hoosiers introduced judges to their Eco-Filter, a biodegradable polar fabric that can stop pollution from synthetic dyes at textile plants.

Team member Katherine G. told the panel of STEM leaders that the best part of the competition was the chance to collaborate with peers.

The Hoosiers even have a team slogan.

"We're all protons because we're always positive," Katherine said, to heartfelt laughter from the audience of parents, teachers and industry professionals.

Other pitches included artificial trees that clean the air like the real thing, easy-peel shipping labels, and solar-powered machines that desalinate sea water for drinking.

"Witnessing the passion and dedication of these young students is truly inspiring," CEF executive director Dwayne Sattler said. "Their accomplishments not only showcase their immense talent but also highlight the transformative power of STEM education."

The competition began last October, tasking students with creating a 5-7 minute video and developing their own sustainable start-up company.

After a strong showing at regionals, the Hoosiers were declared state winners, earning themselves a ticket to Houston.

In all, they beat more than 6,000 students from 240 schools to win a $12,000 scholarship, which can be used for college or university studies, in addition to skilled trade certifications.

"The skills these students learned and developed through the challenge will last a lifetime and contribute to the future STEM workforce needed in our industry and many others," said Alysia Diffendal, who serves as Corteva Agriscience director of formulations and packaging and as a CEF board trustee.

CEF's national challenge showcases the knowledge of students from grades 5-8 in STEM, critical thinking, digital literacy and creative problem-solving.

Before Tuesday's competition, the visitors were treated to a welcome message from Eyewitness News anchors Erik Barajas and Gina Gaston.

CEF's You Be the Chemist National Challenge is supported by ABC13 and Disney Future Storytellers.

Through social investments and collaborations like these, Disney is empowering the next generation of storytellers and innovators to dream about their future, build their talents and skills, and become who they imagine they can be.

You can learn more about Disney Future Storytellers at

2023 You Be the Chemist Challenge National Finalists

First Place: The Young Hoosiers Club, Indiana

  • Daniel C.
  • Joy C.
  • Katherine G.
  • Sofia L.

Second Place: Parent-Led Team from Redmond Middle School, Washington

  • Advait B.
  • Katherine L.
  • Shreyas R.

Third Place: Hudson Middle School, Ohio

  • Jerry D.
  • Ian Z.
  • David B.
  • Anton B.

Princeton Charter School, New Jersey

  • Harry D.
  • Emily G.
  • Amelie H.

Parent-Led Team from BASIS Independent, McLean, Virginia

  • Tyler D.
  • Ryan G.
  • Wesley W.
  • Justin Y.