SPARTA,NJ – Sparta High School Chemistry Olympic team recently received their awards for their wins at the NJIT competition.  Audrey Biss and Alexandra Poret earned a first place in Event 9 Instrumentation lab.  Sarah West, Kaylea Gaughan and Briana Cotton won a second place in Event 8 Analytical lab.

"My experience in Chemistry Olympics has made me grow as a chemist and scientist outside of the classroom, exposing me to new ways of analytical thinking and forming new creative skill,” Poret said.

The team was composed of seven students competing in several events including website building, nomenclature and various lab events according to Chemistry teacher and team advisors Ashley Markovic and Andrew Bickerton.

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"This year's theme was all based on food chemistry," Markovic said.  

Poret explained the winning lab was “Smartphone Spectrophotometer” in which they “used an RGB color sensing app to find the amount of Cu2+ ions in an unknown solution.”  The duo taped an iPhone to a box with an open back an put “the entire contraption on a laptop with a red screen.”  They then tested the absorption of the red light in a series of standard solutions.

They charted their findings in a graph, found a trend line and matched the absorption of the unknown solution to the line. According to Poret, “the lab was super easy to do, using low cost materials to accomplish something usually done by expensive spectrophotometers.”

“Audrey and I were unconfident going into the event, however, we’re both super happy the lab went well and our results were accurate,” Poret said.

West, Gaughan and Cotton used the provided lab equipment to determine the amount of caffeine in an energy shot.  Their technique and results earned the trio a silver medal and a trophy. 

"When we arrived to perform our lab we had beakers and salt while other teams had professional vacuums with an extraction of charcoal. We ended up having more accurate results than the other teams,” Gaughan said.

"It's not always the most complex and challenging idea that wins the race. Sometimes you have to keep it simple and stick to what you know,” Cotten said.