Shared from the 6/1/2022 Midland Daily News eEdition

Jefferson Middle School reaches national chemist competition

Nationals on June 6 in Texas

Photo Provided Midland Public Schools

From left to right, Kanushi Desai, Ian Koh, Louis Huang and Emma Huang pose for a photo as the 2022 YBTC Michigan Finalists of Jefferson Middle School

Four Jefferson Middle School students in Midland are gearing up for a national competition in Houston, Texas, next week.

Kanushi Desai, Louis Huang and Ian Koh, who all just completed eighth grade, and Emma Huang, who just completed sixth grade, have reached the highest level of a chemist competition.

“This has gotten me more interested in science, and it is a good opportunity to do further research in chemistry,” Louis said, adding he thinks chemical reactions are cool.

The students will present to a live panel as national finalists for the “You Be The Chemist” challenge on Monday, June 6 in Houston. Jefferson Middle School will represent Michigan at the competition, which features five of the state team winners of regionals.

Koh said participating in the competition could be an experience that helps differentiates him from other college applicants.

“All of this stuff is really useful in the future,” Koh said. “It’s good information to have in the back of your mind, especially for high school science courses. Those can be tough.”

School Coordinator Christine Brillhart, who teaches science at Jefferson Middle School, acted as an advisor for the group. She explained that participating in the competition has helped the students develop skills that are broader than chemistry, such as teamwork and public speaking.

“I’ve just seen them able to grow,” Brillhart said. “Wow — to get to this point, too. A lot of it was their independent, outside work to prepare.”

The students utilized Midland’s chemistry roots to their advantage by networking with helpful adults who could help students through the competition process. Desai said she contacted a Midland chemist who used to work for Dow, which she said was both intimidating and supportive.

WATCH: “But wait! There’s another one!”

Emma is presenting information about states of matter, including plasma, which is not commonly found on Earth but is one of the most abundant states of matter in the universe.

Brillhart said the team received a score of .98 out of one. In addition, she said the team scored second on the regional test, which was considered for the combination score that reached the state winner. The students didn’t share an early prediction of winning; rather, they were surprised with the results.

“I didn’t think we would get in because we only had (second place) in regionals,” Emma said, adding that she was feeling excited after passing the initial reaction.

Brillhart said the students took this opportunity on their own. Koh said he was prompted to participate because of his family’s background, then he ended up on a winning team.

“I kind of thought it would be cool,” he said. “My dad’s a chemist. My mom, she used to work in a similar area. They’ve helped me a lot recently, because it went from a casual thing to something I really needed to work on.”

Brillhart said she administered the original test within the competition to eight students to narrow down who would participate in the challenge, representing Jefferson.

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