Middle school and high school students have an opportunity to compete for cash prizes in a new chemistry-focused contest. Science Buddies—a nonprofit organization that provides science fair resources for students, teachers, and parents—and the Astellas USA Foundation have teamed up to sponsor the Rosalind Franklin Chemistry Contest.
Although the contest is open to all U.S. students in grades six to 12, the organizers especially hope to attract aspiring young female scientists. With that goal in mind, the organizers named the contest after Franklin, the crystallographer whose X-ray diffraction data helped lead to the identification of the double-helical structure of DNA.
In naming the contest, “we were looking for a female chemist who had achieved great things,” says Courtney Corda, vice president at Science Buddies. “There are many to choose from, but what’s interesting about Rosalind Franklin is that she probably did not get as much recognition—at least in her lifetime—as she probably deserved.”
The main focus at Science Buddies is helping students who are working on projects for science competitions—any competition. “We’re kind of Switzerland—that is, neutral—when it comes to which competition,” Corda says. And in the new contest, students are welcome to let their projects pull double duty. “It’s perfectly fine for them to send us a project they did for another competition,” Corda says.
Students can come up with their own project, but if they need inspiration, they can start with an idea from the Science Buddies website. The project ideas vary in complexity, but each one provides a scaffold on which students can build their own research. Students need to come up with their own testable hypothesis. Last year, chemistry was the most popular area on the Science Buddies website, which had 12 million visitors, Corda says. “Lots of kids out there have a budding interest in chemistry,” Corda says. “We want to nurture that.”
Jeffrey I. Seeman, visiting senior research scholar at the University of Richmond and creator of the Archimedes Initiative, a website focused on improving science literacy through high school science fairs, says: “Having a science fair focused exclusively on chemistry may well encourage students to do a project in that field rather than in another discipline. What could be better for those of us in the broad field of the molecular sciences than to have more youth interested in joining us?”
Corda encourages chemists who are interested in mentoring students on science fair projects to contact Science Buddies about its expert forum.
For the contest, students must complete a display board describing their projects, and the judges—staff scientists at Science Buddies—will assess entries on the basis of creativity, scientific thought, thoroughness, skill, and clarity of presentation. Entries must be received by 7 PM PDT on April 1.
The top submissions will receive cash awards. The winning high school students will each receive $500; the top middle school students will receive $250. In each grade range, one boy and one girl will be selected. Winners will be announced in May.