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Chemistry skills shine

Suffolk elementary school students Ariyahna Cheeks, Jamauri Demiel and Conner Kauwell will join Jaylen Daughtrey, not pictured, at the state competition next month after performing well at the Hampton Roads You Be The Chemist Challenge last Saturday. (Submitted Photo)

Suffolk elementary school students Ariyahna Cheeks, Jamauri Demiel and Conner Kauwell will join Jaylen Daughtrey, not pictured, at the state competition next month after performing well at the Hampton Roads You Be The Chemist Challenge last Saturday. (Submitted Photo)

Four Suffolk elementary school students progressed to the state round when BASF held the Hampton Roads round of its You Be The Chemist Challenge last Saturday.

Elementary schools across Hampton Roads were eligible to field contestants, but the 19 students who competed at the regional competition were all from Suffolk’s Mack Benn Jr. and Booker T. Washington, said Beverly Nedab, human resources manager at BASF’s Wilroy Road location.

Ariyahna Cheeks (Mack Benn), Jamauri Demiel (Booker T. Washington), Conner Kauwell (Mack Benn) and Jaylen Daughtrey (Booker T. Washington) are set to compete at the Virginia State Challenge after placing first through fourth, respectively.

Saturday’s competition was held at the Wilroy Road site, where those Suffolk students will also compete at the state level on April 25, against 16 other Virginia elementary school students.

The competition uses a game-show format, testing students’ knowledge of chemistry concepts and how those concepts interact.

“We have a moderator who reads the questions to the students, and they have devices where they answer with a clicker,” Nedab said, adding the seven rounds each have different questions.

“We congratulate the top-placing students as well as all of the participants in the challenge,” Patrick Hochstrasser, director of BASF’s Suffolk site, said in a news release.

“We hope this experience has encouraged them to pursue studies and careers in science.”

From the state competition, only one winner will progress to the National Challenge this summer in Philadelphia, Nedab said.

The You Be The Chemist Challenge was founded by the Chemical Educational Foundation over 25 years ago. CEF coordinates the challenge nationally and companies like BASF sponsor multiple challenge sites across the country, including the Hampton Roads Challenge.

“Being a chemical company, basically they want to teach kids chemistry,” she said. “They feel the best way to do that is with a hands-on approach and by teaching our kids early.”

It helps sustain their interest in chemistry, she said, adding that some might one day work for BASF as chemists.