Kratcha to take on Washington

Fifth grader Gavin Kratcha of Hankinson took first place in the statewide You Be the Chemist Challenge that was held in April. He is shown here with Dr. Magan Lewis, the South Dakota and North Dakota You Be the Chemist Challenge organizer. Kratcha heads to Washington, D.C., to take on 41 other finalists in the You Be the Chemist Challenge.

Hankinson student Gavin Kratcha, from Hankinson Public School, is one of 42 middle school students who will be heading to Washington, D.C., later this month for the 2017 National You Be The Chemist Challenge.

The 42 finalists qualified from among 55,000 middle school students across 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who participated in the local and state levels of the Challenge program through the 2016-17 school year.

An early interest in science and math fueled the fifth grader’s desire to compete in a statewide chemistry competition, where he took first place.

After correctly answering dozens of chemistry and general science questions over multiple rounds of competition, Kratcha was declared the North Dakota You Be The Chemist Challenge champion in April. Eighth grader Abby Post was second, his sister, seventh grader Emma Kratcha, was third and fifth grader Logan Falk, all of Hankinson, finished fourth. Each of the top four finalists received a plaque and gift certificate.

This win sends Gavin and his parents, Darwin and Patty Kratcha, to Washington, D.C., to the national YBTC competition, which will be held June 19.

Gavin loves science and math, making chemistry the perfect conduit during the You Be the Chemist Challenge. Talking to 11-year-old Gavin about chemistry, he speaks in terms of Lewis electron-dot symbols, periodic table of elements and chemical equations, seemingly beyond the typical vocabulary of a fifth-grade student.

Chemistry isn’t typically introduced to fifth graders at Hankinson Public School since this class is offered in high school. That didn’t stop him from practically soaking up one of his favorite subjects — science — to beat 21 fifth-to eighth-grade students during the challenge.

You Be the Chemist Challenge is a question-and-answer competition that motivates fifth to eighth graders to sharpen their knowledge of chemistry concepts and real-world applications. The program is designed to engage students in STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, subjects at an earlier age and increase the number of students pursuing STEM-related careers.

Gavin prepared for the competition by attending study sessions in the science fair room at Hankinson. Plus, he studied up to two hours a day a few weeks ahead of the state competition. He doesn’t hold a lot of hope for doing well at nationals, he said, but went through the informational packet he received right after the state competition.

The 2017 North Dakota State Challenge was sponsored by Dow Chemical, Dow AgroSciences, Chemical Educational Foundation and Hankinson Education Foundation.

Each national participant will receive an advanced-level chemistry kit, as well as other prizes and giveaway items. The first- through fourth-place winners will also receive scholarships totaling $18,500 for future educational use. Additionally, participants from each state will be treated to activities of all that Washington, D.C., has to offer.

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