Author:
Romet Peedumäe

The Chemistry of Success: Inside the 71st Chemistry Olympiad Finals

The finals of the 71st Estonian Chemistry Olympiad took place at the University of Tartu's Chemicum on March 16-17, inviting students who excelled in the regional rounds and the open chemistry competition. This year, 97 students from grades 9 to 12 competed against each other. The opening remarks were delivered by the new Director of the Institute of Chemistry, Piret Pikma, who encouraged young people to study chemistry.

In the 9th and 10th grade category, a total of 50 students participated, tasked with solving six out of nine specialized competition problems. Students were particularly interested in identifying iodine compounds, determining the caffeine content spectrophotometrically in coffee, exploring the chemical properties of special boron compounds, and proving the hydrolysis product of the sweetener aspartame. Interestingly, the most successfully solved problems in both 9th and 10th grades were related to iodine compounds and boron compounds (with over 80% solution rate for both). It was noted that the most challenging and less popular task was determining water content using the Karl-Fischer titration method, with a solution rate of less than 40% in both grades. 

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Ülesannete meeldivuse diagramm

The graph shows students' feedback on the pleasantness of the tasks, with one of the most enjoyable tasks being about pool water.

The set for 11th and 12th grades consisted of six tasks, offering students exciting challenges from various chemistry domains. Responding to students' strong desire for more organic chemistry tasks in the past two years, the authors included five out of six different aspects of organic chemistry this year. The most enjoyable task for the older group focused on the laboratory synthesis of a natural compound found in chrysanthemums, followed by an introductory task on solubility products. Tasks on supramolecular chemistry and the synthesis of two well-known iodine-based oxidizing reagents, sodium periodate and Dess-Martin periodinane, also received excellent feedback. However, the most challenging task proved to be the computationally intensive "Biodiesel Production".

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Ülesannete meeldivuse diagramm

Overall, this year's tasks were found to be easier and more enjoyable than average: the solution rate was 51% for the 11th grade and as high as 63% for the 12th grade! Notably, in the 12th grade category, all top four spots were occupied by girls (Liisa Pata, Lisette-Liis Loorits, Anette Kipso, and Ulla Inger Veri), which is reportedly the first occurrence in the history of the chemistry olympiad, undoubtedly an encouraging event for young female chemistry enthusiasts. It's also worth mentioning that in five tasks, at least one student managed to score the maximum points, which is a significant achievement considering the difficulty level of the finals.

The winners of this year's chemistry olympiad by grade are as follows:

9th Grade: Karl_Robin Koppel, Gustav Adolfi Gümnaasium (teacher Katrin Soika);
10th Grade: Kaarel Toomet, Nõo Reaalgümnaasium (teacher Aivar Vinne);
11th Grade: Karlis Suvi, Tallinna Reaalkool (teacher Andrus Kangro).
12th Grade: Liisa Pata, Tallinna Reaalkool (teacher Martin Saar);
It's worth mentioning that Kaarel Toomet, Karlis Suvi, and Liisa Pata also won the finals last year.

Complete results along with tasks and solutions can be found on the University of Tartu Science School's website.

The chemistry olympiad was funded by the Ministry of Education and Research and organized by the University of Tartu Science School in collaboration with the Institute of Chemistry. The olympiad was also supported by Professor Nadežda Kongi, who provided her brand's Ontic minerals souvenirs to the girls."

 

 

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