Berks County Students Compete in National Chemistry Competition

Reading, PA - On Saturday morning March 2, 2013, ninety-five middle school and junior high students from Berks County demonstrated their knowledge of chemistry concepts, important discoveries, and chemical safety awareness at the local level of a national chemistry competition. The top finishers , in the seventh annual Berks County event ,were first place Trent Morris, 8th grade student at Berks Christian School, second place Bhanu Oruganty, 6th grade student at C.E. Cole Intermediate School, third place Marc Chmielewski ,7th grade student at Wilson West Middle School, and fourth place Haley Savastano, 6th grade student at Hamburg Middle School.

Students from Wilson (West & Southern), Hamburg, Muhlenberg, Exeter (Reiffton & Jr. High), Schuylkill Valley and Berks Christian School, competed against one another in the You Be The Chemist Challenge® (Challenge) – an academic question and answer competition created by the Chemical Educational Foundation® (CEF). The Challenge competition aims to engage grade 5-8 students in chemistry through a dynamic event that partners members of the chemical industry with schools and organizations in the communities in which they operate.

Bryan Page, National Strategic Accounts Executive for Brenntag North America and Chairperson for the event: “We were thrilled with close to one hundred student participants and standing room only in the three hundred person auditorium.” “This is part of our community outreach,” said Tom Corcoran, Commercial Vice President of Brenntag North America. “If we can get young kids interested in chemistry now, they can pursue it in high school and college. This is like the (Scripps) National Spelling Bee, but for chemistry. That show, ‘Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?’ comes to mind,” Corcoran added. “Some of these questions are really hard.”

The local level portion of the Challenge held in the Perkins Student Center Auditorium at the Penn State Berks Campus was sponsored by Brenntag, whose North American headquarters and local distribution facility are located in Reading, and the Penn State Berks Chemical Society. All participants received T-shirts, certificate of participation, and home science kits. The four participants moving forward also received trophies and were additionally awarded 6 month memberships to the Reading Public Museum, along with gift certificates from Barnes & Noble and Educational & Fun.

The top four winners of the Berks County Challenge qualify to advance to the Pennsylvania State Challenge held at Penn State main campus on Saturday, April 27, 2013. The winner of the state competition will move on to compete in the National Challenge held in Philadelphia, PA, on June 24 at the Kimmel Center. There they will compete with state representatives from across the country for the title of 2012-2013 National You Be The Chemist Challenge® Champion.

At the national competition each participant will receive fun prizes, such as chemistry kits, T-shirts and gift certificates to the Discovery Channel Store. The first through fourth place winners will also receive scholarships for future educational use. And, in addition to the Challenge and prizes, participants and a chaperone will also be treated to various activities in historic Philadelphia, such as a visit to The Franklin Institute, an interactive science museum, and a dinner celebration at the National Constitution Center. For more information about the competition, please visit the CEF website at


About the Chemical Educational Foundation
Founded in 1989 and headquartered in Arlington, VA, the Chemical Educational Foundation® works closely with industry to enhance science education opportunities for our youth and their educators through the You Be The Chemist® programs.

CEF Contact: Brian Taylor
Phone: 571-482-3055

Brenntag North America Contact: Barbara Nothstein
Phone: 610-916-3858