An estimated 300 middle school students from 18 Tangipahoa Parish public schools will compete at the annual You Be the Chemist Challenge from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Southeastern Louisiana University’s University Center.

The program allows students to demonstrate their knowledge of chemistry concepts, important discoveries and chemical safety awareness, Southeastern officials said in a news release.

Sponsored by Bercen, Inc., a Denham Springs-based specialty chemical manufacturer, the event is being hosted jointly by the Southeastern Department of Chemistry and Physics and the Tangipahoa Parish School System. The challenge is run by the Chemical Education Foundation.

At the event, students in grades five through eight from area schools will participate in classroom testing. The top students will then engage in the actual challenge, a Quiz Bowl-type of competition using academic questions created by the Chemical Educational Foundation, said project coordinator David Norwood, associate professor in the Southeastern Department of Chemistry and Physics.

The students also will view and participate in chemistry demonstrations presented by Southeastern students and faculty, Norwood said.

“The challenge provides students an exposure to chemistry and how it applies to their everyday lives,” Norwood said. “It helps them gain a greater appreciation of how chemistry shapes our world. It’s rewarding to see the students take such a strong interest in science, and we hope activities like this encourage them to seek careers in the sciences.”

Participating schools are Champ Cooper, Chesbrough Elementary, O.W. Dillion Elementary, Hammond Eastside, Hammond Junior, Hammond Westside, Independence Middle, Kentwood Junior, Loranger Middle, Natalbany Elementary, Nesom Middle, Ponchatoula Junior, Roseland Elementary, SLU Lab, Spring Creek Elementary, Sumner Middle and Vinyard Elementary and Westside Middle.

“Most students don’t study much chemistry until they are well into high school,” said Southeastern chemistry instructor M. Georgina Little, one of the coordinators for the event. “The challenge exposes these younger students to some of the core ideas of chemistry by adding to what they are already studying in middle school science. They are better prepared when they walk into a Chemistry I high school class, and they can start thinking about career options in the chemical sciences.”

“YBTC is an effective instructional program that exposes our students to science in their daily lives, stresses the importance of science curriculum and introduces students to STEM careers,” added Tangipahoa Parish School System STEM Coordinator Cecilia Lanier.

“The school YBTC contact selects participants based on the student’s success in science courses and standardized tests,” she said. “Preparation for the district competition began early in the school year with the student selection process. Once students were identified, they were provided with study materials issued by the Chemical Education Foundation.

“Many of the schools held study sessions, school quiz bowl competitions, and inquiry-based lessons to prepare for the district event. TPSS is grateful that Bercen sponsors an opportunity for our students to compete and experience science outside of the textbook.”

The Chemical Educational Foundation was created by the National Association of Chemical Distributors in 1989. You Be The Chemist Challenge was created in 2004 to inspire middle school students to get excited about chemistry, the release said. The event partners chemical industries with area schools.

The winner of the challenge at Southeastern will advance to the State Challenge at LSU later in the spring. The winner of the state competition will compete in the National YBTC Challenge in Philadelphia in June.

For information, contact Norwood at dnorwood@southeastern.edu or at (985) 549-3938.