University of Scranton students win national chemistry contest


Chemistry students from the University of Scranton have won first place in the national "Chemvention" contest with their design of an inexpensive method for accurately measuring the amount of oxygen consumed during a chemical reaction. The announcement was made during the recent spring meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society and the sponsor of the annual competition.

Chemvention is a team event in which Student Affiliate chapters of the Society compete to solve a common problem without exceeding a budget of $100. The 2003 challenge was to "develop a procedure and/or a device that will allow you to measure the amount of oxygen in air as accurately and precisely as possible."

Members of the University of Scranton team are Timothy Sechler, Bill James, Kristen Stempa, Thomas Umile, Michael Dessoye, Michael Stefanski, Christopher Minello, Laura Petro, Amanda DeMarco, Terri Harchar, Joseph Strabeck and Maria Virbitsky. The team received a $1,500 grand prize from Robert Coraor, manager of Technology Transfer for Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

"The students truly enjoyed the competition," said team advisor David Rusak, a professor in the University's chemistry department. "It was a great challenge."

Scranton's entry, called Isobaric Generation of Rust, was based on the oxidation of steel wool by oxygen. As the steel wool rusted in a sealed tube open only to water, oxygen was consumed and water was drawn into the tube. By measuring the height of the water before and after the reaction took place, the students were able to calculate the volume of oxygen consumed in the reaction. This simple but effective method was accomplished using only $75.45 worth of materials, well within the established spending limit of $100.

In addition to the University of Scranton, finalists in the Chemvention competition included teams from Gannon University in Erie, Pa., Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, Ind., and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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