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The fourth annual Challenge for a Chemist goes to a school team from Neratovice


The “Trojka”, or No. 3 team from the Third Primary School in Neratovice, has won the chemical competition, “A Challenge for a Chemist”. It is designed for Year 8 and 9 students at primary schools in the local districts of Mělník and Kladno. The fourth annual science and entertaining competition was traditionally organised by Spolana Neratovice together with Gymnázium Václava Třebízského in Slaný and the Fire Rescue Service of the Central Bohemian Region. Twelve three-member teams from 11 schools signed up for the competition this year. Students from the primary schools in Neratovice, Kralupy and Vltavou, and Slaný made it to the finals held on the premises of the upper-secondary school in Slaný. The Challenge aims to popularise chemistry among children in an entertaining and playful way and motivates the winners and schools with valuable prizes.

“Spolana has been running this competition for the fourth year, and it has already become a tradition. Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, we had attracted 12 teams, each having three members, from 11 schools this year,” Piotr Kearney, Spolana’s Executive Director, summarises the contest optimistically. Three teams advanced to the final round held at Gymnázium Václava Třebízského in Slaný. “Chemistry is an important discipline, yet it can also be exciting and a lot of fun. Therefore, we hope we can get children enthusiastic about this field. Of course, we would be happy if some of the contestants once become students at our school,” says Milan Dundr, principal of the upper-secondary school in Slaný.

The winning team, Trojka, came from the Third Primary School in Neratovice. Its members received tablets and other prizes. Their school received an award, too, a gift voucher for chemical lab equipment worth CZK 10,000. “This competition is a lot of fun, but it is also didactic. We already have plans to enter the fifth year next year. We will use the money to buy chemical lab equipment, especially didactic aids that will help children better grasp the chemistry syllabus,” says Irena Škantová, a teacher of the triumphant team from Neratovice.

The first assignment of the final competition involved a quiz with 17 questions across the entire chemistry spectrum. It also included object demonstrations, i.e., plays with liquid nitrogen, a magnet, which fell through a frozen copper pipe at -196 degrees Celsius, and with paper ships and sodium. “The children were also to determine properties (e.g. flammability, evaporation, oxidation ability, …) of unknown hazardous substances by using the SOUL method,” comments Tomáš Holec, Head of the Citizen Protection and Crisis Management Department of the Fire Rescue Service of the Central Bohemian Region. The students also had to pass practical tests in the Slaný school laboratory: coating a metal strip with zinc, annealing when an alloy (brass) was supposed to emerge on the strip’s surface. Besides, the students had to explain all these phenomena.  

Contest description

The first online round was launched in April 2021. The attending teams were tasked to carry out an assigned chemical experiment with electrolysis. First, they had to determine the nature of blue vitriol (copper(II) sulphate pentahydrate) in the experiment. They recorded their results and uploaded their video recording on the competition’s website. Also, they completed a knowledge test, all of this in 30 days. The three best teams advanced to the second final round held on 17 June. The final assignments focused on quick-wittedness and general knowledge of chemistry and safety when handling chemical substances. They also involved chemical experiments in the lab. For more information, go to www.vyzvaprochemika.cz.

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SPOLANA a.s. is one of the largest chemical manufacturing companies in the Czech Republic. The only manufacturer of PVC and caprolactam also produces ammonium sulphate and sulphuric acid. It currently employs over 700 people. Spolana has been owned by ORLEN Unipetrol since 2016. The ORLEN Unipetrol Group is the largest refining and petrochemical company in the Czech Republic. It focuses on crude oil processing and production, distribution and sale of fuels and petrochemical products – mainly plastics and fertilisers. It is one of the major players in the Czech and Central European markets in all these areas. The ORLEN Unipetrol group includes refineries and production plants in Litvínov and Kralupy nad Vltavou, Paramo with the Mogul brand in Pardubice and Kolín, the Spolana company in Neratovice, and two research centres in Litvínov and Brno. ORLEN Unipetrol also includes the ORLEN Benzina petrol station network in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. With 420 outlets,
Benzina ORLEN is the largest chain in the Czech Republic. With 20 sites in Slovakia, it is the fastest-growing network since 2019. ORLEN Unipetrol is one of the largest companies in the Czech Republic in terms of turnover. In 2019, it earned CZK 129 billion and employed more than 4,800 people. In addition to its business development, ORLEN Unipetrol is proud to be a socially responsible corporation. Therefore, it pays an equal amount of attention to initiatives, focusing on the cultivation and support of sustainable development, education, local communities, and the environment. In 2005, ORLEN Unipetrol became part of the PKN Orlen Group, the largest oil processor in Central Europe.

Contact details: Pavel Kaidl, spokesperson, telephone: +420 736 502 520, e-mail: pavel.kaidl@unipetrol.cz

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