by Ashley Bouwense
Ridgedale Middle School eighth-grader, Nick Rauschenberger, won the New Jersey “You Be the Chemist Challenge” April 26.
The 14-year-old competed against 31 other NJ middle school students from fifth to eighth grade. The Chemist Challenge, located at BASF North American Headquarters in Florham Park, consisted of question-and-answer style questions about chemistry concepts and applications.
There were a total of seven rounds in the competition, where students were eliminated after each round. The questions were projected onto a PowerPoint-like presentation, and the students had to buzz in and then answer the question. Parents and other guests watched students compete from sideline bleachers.
“I had a fun time,” Rauschenberger said.
As winner, Rauschenberger will represent NJ in the National “You Be the Chemist Challenge: Around the World of Chemistry!” June 20 in Philadelphia. He is amongst 39 other middle school students around the country who will participate. The winner of the National Challenge will receive a $10,000 Educational Scholarship, which is intended for future higher education expenses, a TI-84 plus calculator and a trophy.
Just as he did in the first competition, Rauschenberger plans to approach the challenge in June with a cool, calm and collected demeanor.
“We are really excited for Nick and so proud he will be representing NJ at the nationals in June,” his mother, Stephanie Rauschenberger, said. “Whatever happens at this point is icing on the cake, and we hope he enjoys the entire experience with peers who share a similar interest in science.”
Rauschenberger and his mother expressed their many thanks to his seventh-grade science teacher, Camille Abdy, who introduced Rauschenberger and her other students to the competition. She helped them to not only prepare for the challenge, but also ultimately encouraged the students to pursue their passions by exposing them to this opportunity.
Abdy was able to attend the competition at BASF North American Headquarters in Florham Park, and will support Rauschenberger by attending the national competition in June at the Kimmel Center.
The five-day trip to Philadelphia for the challenge will also include dinners, receptions, award ceremonies and science exhibits for the participants and guests. Rauschenberger’s parents and two younger brothers, Ryan and Timmy, will attend with him.
Rauschenberger’s favorite subject in school is chemistry, and his overall interest in the sciences can be said to be “in his blood,” as his grandfather was an earth science teacher.
“I also read a lot of chemistry books,” he said. “That really jogged my interest in the subject.”
In the future, Rauschenberger hopes to pursue a career in organic chemistry. This field is focused on the study of living things’ chemical compositions, “things that contain the carbon atom,” and constitutions.
“Chemistry impacts so much of our world,” said Rauschenberger . “It helps advance us in the future and solves many of the problems we face in our world.”
And for those who may be nervous to compete in academic competitions, such as the “You Be the Chemist Challenge,” he encouraged, “Don’t be. It’s fun!”