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Summer Conference 2018
“Challenges in Teaching Chemistry”
Keynote Speaker: ​Sam Kean
The New York Times best-selling author
August 17 - 18, 2018
Middlesex School
Concord, MA

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Complete registration for NEACT Members: $125 for both days **
Includes: a light breakfast, lunch, breaks and Friday night dinner
PDPs will be available for Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut teachers
** Purchase orders accepted
1st time attendee? There is financial help. Ask about our scholarships.
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Going for the Gold
By Steve Lantos (Chair, High School Education Committee), Brookline High School
At its November meeting, NESACS recognized the 2017 International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) Team USA and one of its students, Joshua Park of Lexington High School, together with his three teammates, Harrison Wang (Hinsdale Central High School, IL), Steven Liu (Monta Vista High School, CA), and Brendan Yap (Carmel High School, IN), who are freshman at MIT. Given their location, NESACS honored ‘Team Alpha Kappa’ (so named because it is the 34th team sent to the IChO, starting with the first year’s ‘Alpha’ team, then
at the end of the 24 Greek letters beginning with a second letter, again starting with alpha) at the meeting for its outstanding four-gold medal performance at the 49th annual IChO in Thailand. In fact, NESACS has had a longstanding relationship with the United States National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO) and the IChO that dates to the origins of our country’s involvement with the world chemistry competition.
The IChO began in 1968 as an inter-country competition among several European nations, including Bulgaria,
Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Austria. Today, it includes 75 countries with over 290 students making up the four-person teams from each nation. Each nation conducts competitions to select the top students as representatives to the world event.
How does one get to the world competition? It’s a long process that obviously begins in the classroom with the
study of chemical concepts and lots of practice with laboratory work. Good teaching certainly helps! In the U.S., the first step is to take an exam. There are more than 140 ACS local sections throughout the country that offer either their own exam or one provided by the ACS Office of K-12 Education, that consists of a 60 question multiple choice exam, covering fundamental chemical concepts at a level of a more challenging Chemistry SATII. Here in NESACS, given the level of ability of many of our top students, we have chosen
instead to write our own 85-90-question multiple-choice exam, called the Avery Ashdown Exam in honor of the longtime MIT chemistry professor, to differentiate the top scorers. We permit a maximum of five students per high school to compete.
Typically, over 16,000 students nationwide take some form of the local section exam each year in early April. From this entry-level group, the ACS has allotted a fixed number of students to qualify for the next round of competition, the USNCO. Thanks to Ron Ragsdale of the University of Utah who has been involved with the USNCO from its beginning in the mid-1980s, the ACS uses a federated system whereby the number of qualifying students in a section is based on its ACS membership. Given the large number of members of NESACS, we are allotted one of the larger groups of qualifiers (26 participants as of 2017).
The USNCO, administered nationally in late April, consists of three parts: a 60-question multiple-choice section, an eight-question free-response section, and, as of 1995, a two-part laboratory practical portion. NESACS thanks the Simmons College Chemistry Department for the generous use of its classroom and laboratory space for the many years NESACS has run the chemistry competition. Approximately 1,000 students nationwide sit for the USNCO; from this group, the top 20 are selected based on a composite of their scores from the three-part exam. These 20 students are invited to attend the Study Camp held during the first two weeks of June at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. They are provided with college-level textbooks prior to their arrival at the camp, and are expected to study and learn topics not typically seen in the high school or AP curriculum, such as physical chemistry, advanced organic chemistry, quantitative analysis, etc. Once at the camp, the Air Force Academy’s Chemistry Department provides the group with daily lectures, laboratory experiments, individual and group tutoring and studying, and regular assessment. The two-week
camp is intensive, to say the least. Three adult mentors live in the dormitory on campus with the 20 students. At the end of the camp, a series of final assessments is given to select the top four (and one alternate) to proceed to the IChO. The ACS covers the expenses of the team to the city and country of the IChO, typically held in mid-July.
This past year’s site was Nakhon Pathom, Thailand; the 2018 site will be in Prague and Bratislava. The last year the world competition was held in the U.S. was 2012 at venues in and around Washington, D.C. From the first year of participation by the U.S. in 1984 with only 45 local sections participating and 76 individuals taking the USNCO, there were, as of last year, 144 participating sections with 297 students at the USNCO. The level of interest has only increased over the years!
The connection of NESACS to the world competition dates to 1984 when the U.S. sent a team to Frankfurt. The four-member team included Peter Capofreddi from Newton North H.S. Also on that first U.S. team was Seth Brown, who went on to attend MIT in the late 1980s, and is now a professor of chemistry at Notre Dame. He also serves as the Chairperson of the USNCO Examinations Task Force, which is charged with creating each year’s written examination questions.
In 1985 Glen Whitney from Medfield H.S. won a bronze medal at the IChO held in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.
His brother, Wayne, represented the U.S. five years later, winning a gold medal at the 1990 IChO in Paris. In 1996 Alex MeVay of the Groton School (teacher: Donald Lea), scored first place on the Ashdown Exam, went on to the study camp, and was selected for the
Alpha Delta’ team; he won a gold medal at the IChO in Moscow. Colin Whittaker of Wayland H.S. (teacher: Jay Chandler) took a silver at the 2002 IChO in Groningen, The Netherlands.
It took another fifteen years to 2017 before another NESACS student, Joshua Park from Lexington (teacher: Janice Compton), would get to the IChO. “From the moment I learned that I was a member of Team USA, I devoted all of my time to preparing for the international competition,” Park said. His and his fellow teammates’ devotion to chemistry paid off big time in Thailand when they won four gold medals for Team USA, a first in our country’s participation at the IChO!
Given the high interest from students, their teachers, and schools throughout NESACS, I am confident we will continue to represent the high level of chemical education our public and private-school students across the section receive, and the strong standing NESACS holds among other sections throughout the country.
For a report of Team Alpha Kappa’s accomplishments following last year’s IChO, see <>.

Steve Lantos wrote the Ashdown Exam from 1989-2002, served as the Chair of the Laboratory Practical portion of the USNCO from 2001-2010, and was a Mentor to the USNCO Study Camp in 2011. He is completing doctoral work by examining best teaching practices among award-winning Boston-area high
school chemistry teachers.

Science in your swimsuit: A Cape Cod Science Café for grades K-8
By Jennifer Maclachlan
On a sweltering summer Wednesday morning in late June where I was enjoying the soft banter of mom talk while we sipped our Diet Cokes and our kids were at swim team practice, my friend Caitlin, who coordinates the swimming program at the Wequaquet Lake Yacht Club (WLYC), asked me if I’d be interested in helping to organize a “science activity afternoon” for the members’ kids. “Yes! Of course, I’d love to.”
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Past Events

NESACS at Fenway Park - 2018 Summerthing

Fenway Park
Join us for an evening at Fenway Park for NESACS SummerThing!
This year's game is on Monday May 14th against the Oakland Athletics
Tickets are $35 each
To purchase tickets, please use our Eventbrite site: