Future innovators in grades 5-8 wanted for 20th annual You Be the Chemist Challenge

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Monday, October 2, 2023
Nearly $50,000 in scholarships up for grabs for young STEM students
Registration is now open for the 2024 You Be the Chemist Challenge, a free national STEM competition open to students in grades 5-8.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The search is on for some of the nation's youngest and brightest scientific minds, with nearly $50,000 in scholarships on the line.

Registration for Chemical Educational Foundation's 20th annual You Be The Chemist Challenge opened Monday, seeking students in grades 5-8 from across the country to team up for its free STEM competition.

Click here to register for the 2023-2024 Challenge

"Students gain a lot of things from participating," CEF program manager Nicole Domingues said. "They have the ability to network with other students, they get to see real-life STEM professionals and listen to their stories and their journeys... (and) they are celebrated outside of their schools."

Participating STEM students will take a qualifying exam at school, before being teamed up to compete in regional in-person challenges across the country this spring.

CEF also offers students the chance to participate in virtual regional competitions, with everyone working to answer timed multiple-choice and short-answer questions.

"After that, they will create a video where they will invent a company that's going to solve a community-based problem," Domingues said.

The winners of the 2023 national challenge, Indiana's Young Hoosier Chemistry Club, wowed judges with their innovation, the Eco-Filter, a biodegradable polar fabric that can stop pollution from synthetic dyes at textile plants

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

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.

Judges weigh regional challenge scores with their video scores to determine state winners, which will be announced in April.

The top five teams are then invited to the National Challenge in Houston next June.

Not only is an interest in science and technology careers ideal, CEF senior manager Dr. Ferleshare Starks said diverse competitors are important to the challenge as it seeks to reflect what's happening in STEM careers across the country.

"We reached a wonderful milestone with our challenge cycle last year, because we had approximately 48% of our participants as female students," Starks said. "We are always engaging our community, our industry sponsors and working with teachers to encourage young girls to get involved in our STEM challenge."

Starks said CEF works diligently to support students and teachers from underserved communities, especially in urban and rural areas, who might not have access to a lot of STEM resources.

"Not only do the students get to see those STEM careers that we think of as the traditional careers, like our scientists and our engineers, but they also get to see what we call those STEM-adjacent careers," Starks said.

"They get to see all those aspects, they get to understand logistics and know that truck driver is just as important and instrumental as the scientist or the CEO."

Registration for the 2024 challenge closes Dec. 29.

National challenge winners can use their scholarships to continue education, whether in skilled trades, career certifications, or college or university studies.

For more information on the challenge, see the CEF website at ChemEd.org.

ABC13 is proud to be official media partner of CEF's You Be the Chemist Challenge.