3 students now advance to state competition
Mitchell Otillio knows his stuff when it comes to science.
The Harry Hurst Middle School student took first place at the recent Dow St. Charles You Be the Chemist Challenge, an annual academic competition where students match wits and knowledge of chemistry concepts, important discoveries and chemical safety awareness.
The event was created by the Chemical Educational Foundation (CEF) and sponsored locally and nationally by Dow. CEF is a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting interest in science and chemistry among students.
Otillio, 13, was crowned the event’s champion after he showed his mettle through seven rounds of competition at the St. Charles Parish School Board building.
Zachary Waits of J.B. Martin Middle School earned runner-up honors while Isaach Brown of Harry Hurst took third place. Twenty St. Charles Parish students in the six through eight grades competed at the event.
“When I first won, my mind went blank,” said Otillio, an eighth grader. “I was not expecting to even make it into the finals, but after a few seconds the surprise went away and I was proud for myself. I was confident I would do decent in the competition, but I was really surprised I did as well as I did.”
Otillio, Waits and Brown each advanced to state You Be the Chemist State Challenge on April 29. The winner will qualify for the National Challenge in June.
Were any of the three to advance again, he could make history. In the four years the competition has been held, no St. Charles Parish student has made it to the national level.
Each round saw the competitors answer a series of multiple choice questions via electronic response. Eliminations were made after the third and fifth rounds.
Otillio, who plans to be an engineer, said he developed an interest in science early in his life.
“As a little kid, I liked watching Mythbusters and a couple other science shows like Bill Nye that really got me hooked,” Otillio said.
The three students each earned a plaque and a prize for their accomplishment. Otillio took home an iPod for his first place victory, while Waits and Brown received a GoPro and Beats by Dre headphones, respectively.
Tremblay said the event serves as a way for Dow to provide some fanfare to students excel in science.
“It’s a way to recognize these kids in the local community, the same as anyone would recognize someone who achieves in athletics,” Tremblay said. “Education is the driver for innovation, manufacturing and economic prosperity in our communities.”
Tremblay said a qualifying exam was given to students in each middle school in St. Charles Parish, with the top four qualifiers at each school moving on to the Be the Chemist Challenge.