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Southwest Orange Monday, Jun. 18, 2018 4 years ago

Gotha Middle student earns trip to D.C. for chemistry competition

Vishanth Murugesan will compete in a chemistry challenge in Washington, D.C.
by: Danielle Hendrix Former Associate Editor

School might be out for the summer, but rising Olympia High freshman Vishanth Murugesan is headed to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate his knowledge of chemistry.

Vishanth — who just finished his eighth-grade year at Gotha Middle — is one of 42 finalists who qualified from among 46,000 middle-school students across 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, after they participated in the local and state levels of the You Be The Chemist Challenge. On Monday, June 18, he will be in Washington, D.C., to compete in the National You Be The Chemist Challenge. 

Vishanth Murugesan will compete in the National You Be The Chemist Challenge.

This is his second-consecutive year participating in the national contest, and he hopes to advance to the final rounds of the national competition this year.

“Last year when I went to the state challenge, I kind of surprised myself by winning,” Vishanth said. “I studied and all that but didn’t expect to come in first place. This year I wanted to go back to the national challenge, so this year I was a little more nervous. … It’s amazing (to go back), because I know there’s a lot of repeat contestants.”

Local, state and national You Be The Chemist Challenges are designed to engage middle-school students in chemistry to demonstrate the importance of science in their everyday lives. Fifth- through eighth-grade students compete in a bee-style competition and must answer questions relating to chemistry, science, technology, mathematics and engineering.

These challenges have been facilitated by the nonprofit Chemical Educational Foundation for 14 years, with the goal of inspiring students to pursue chemistry and STEM-related learning and careers.

“Engaging students in STEM at a young age is the best way to foster an understanding of, and ability to apply, scientific concepts,” said CEF Executive Director Dwayne Sattler. “Students today are the workforce of tomorrow. Business and community leaders want to nurture the capacity of those who will join the chemistry industry and keep it successful. These 42 students’ incredible success is proof of how far young learners can come when inspired by community educators.”

The students will vie for educational scholarships and prizes as they display their knowledge and use their experience from local and state challenges. 

Vishanth, who won the state challenge in April, has been studying the materials the program provides, as well as the extra resources on its website. 

His mother, Suganthi Saminathan, couldn’t be happier to see him succeeding at something for which he has a passion.

“The challenge is really a great opportunity,” Saminathan said. “He learned a lot of things. I’d like to thank his teacher, Uma Kasi, who introduced this challenge to us.”

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Danielle Hendrix was an associate editor for the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and


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