BROOKFIELD – Students from around the nation in fifth to eighth grades gathered in Philadelphia June 22 through June 23 to test their knowledge in chemistry at the 2014 national You Be the Chemist Challenge Championship.
The competition whittled down nearly 25,000 students at local and state levels, sending the top 30 students on to the national competition. In the end, only one remained: Audrey Gallier. Audrey, a sixth grade home-school student from Brookfield took the competition's top prize – an $8,000 scholarship, graphic calculator, a gift certificate to the Discovery Channel Store and a brand new chemistry set.
Over the three-day event, students competed against each other in a quiz-bowl-style competition, answering questions to test their knowledge of chemical safety, scientific theories and completing chemical equations, as well as attending speeches led by two previous winners and having the opportunity to interact with members of the chemical industry, chemists and educators.
Editor Matthew Hendrickson recently talked with Audrey about homeschooling, her wide ranging interests and how she took the competition by storm.
Matthew Hendrickson: Audrey, you're home-schooled. Can you tell us what a typical day of school is like for you?
Audrey Gallier: I get up, eat breakfast and then start studying. I learn from a variety of resources. I do some things with my mom, some with my mom and brother and some alone.
Hendrickson: Will you be home-schooled through high school? What's it like?
Audrey: I will home-school through junior high. I am not sure about high school. I like how my mom and I can pick what curricula we will use and skip ahead if something is too easy.
Hendrickson:How did you get interested in chemistry?
Audrey: I am not really sure, but a middle school chemistry class I took in fifth grade played a big part.
Hendrickson: What led you to take part in the You Be The Chemist Challenge? How did you prepare?
Audrey: Another home-schooled family let us know about the Challenge. First there was a qualifying exam, then local, state and national competitions. We were given three study booklets, one for each level, averaging about 70 pages each.
Hendrickson: Is a career in science in your future?
Audrey: Yes, because every day at work would be different, interesting and challenging!
Hendrickson: What was it like being at the competition?
Audrey: It was held in a small theater. The questions were multiple choice (A, B, C, D). They were shown on large screens and answered with little electronic transmitters. In the finals, kids answered with dry erase boards. For most questions, we were given ten seconds to answer. All kids answered the same questions. I really had fun with the contest, and I learned a whole lot about chemistry and its applications.
Hendrickson: I read the prizes included an $8,000 scholarship and a chemistry set. What do you plan to do with your new chemistry set?
Audrey: I will have fun doing all the experiments in the booklet and learning about the lab equipment!
Hendrickson: When the judges asked you: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? You said The Big Bang. Why did you pick that, instead of something like Hawaii?
Audrey: I could get on a plane and see Hawaii any time, so, given the opportunity to go anywhere, I chose a trip that would be impossible in real life.
Hendrickson: Do you wear your new white lab coat around the house?
Audrey: No, but I plan to wear it while using my chemistry set!
Hendrickson: Tell us a little about yourself: What else do you enjoy besides chemistry?
Audrey: I Love all animals – especially horses! – reading fiction and nonfiction, writing and basketball.