Chemical Educational Foundation with a STEM Challenge for Kids

Chemical Educational Foundation with a STEM Challenge for Kids

06.11.14 | By John Rice

As you read this, 30 outstanding middle school students from across the nation are busy studying amino acids, chromatography, and other scientific concepts in preparation for the National You Be The Chemist Challenge®—the final stage of the Chemical Educational Foundation’s® (CEF’s) exciting academic contest for grade 5 – 8 students. The Challenge, which is often compared to a spelling bee but with science questions, aims to use the drama of competition to inspire future innovators in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Here at CEF, we are continually impressed by the bright young minds who participate in the program each year (almost 25,000 in 2014 and growing!). These students have big dreams for the future, and see the Challenge as a stepping stone on their way to a lifetime of scientific breakthroughs.

Inspiring Future Innovators

Many Challenge participants dream of one day applying their scientific skills to medical innovations. This year, a student told us she plans to become a “pharmaceutical chemist or a doctor specializing in the brain.” Another dreams of inventing something to benefit the elderly, because “it doesn’t seem like much fun to sit around in pain.” Former Challenge participants are already translating these dreams into reality, as they complete degrees in subjects like biochemistry, chemical engineering, and physics.

One of these superstars is the very first Challenge Champion, Maggie Leake. In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Challenge program, Maggie is attending the National Challenge and will speak about how the program inspired her to become a chemistry and mathematics double-major, while working part-time as a lab technician and conducting research on Alzheimer’s. It is precisely these types of innovators that the Challenge program seeks to inspire!

The Industry Connection

The Challenge is a fun and exciting way to get students excited about science, but it is also a serious attempt to address a pressing business issue: the need to grow a new generation of workers skilled in STEM fields. As any member of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) knows, America’s ability to stay at the forefront of scientific advances requires a strong talent pipeline. These future scientific leaders are today’s grade K – 8 students, and they are the individuals CEF’s programs try to reach.

Industry members play a vital role in the success of CEF’s programs, providing sponsorships and volunteer support in communities across the country. With industry support, CEF hopes to bring all three of our You Be The Chemist® programs (the Challenge, You Be The Chemist® Essential Elements, and You Be The Chemist® Activity Guides) to 500,000 students in all 50 states by 2024. These are big goals, and we invite anyone with interest to visit our website ( or give us a call at 703/527-6223 to find out how you can help us make them a reality. We also invite you to join us at the National Challenge in Philadelphia on June 23 as we celebrate science with industry supporters, government figures, educators, families, and 30 exceptional students.


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