Chemistry olympiad for Nordic youth at University of Helsinki 18-21 July 2019

kemiakilpailun valmennusleiriläiset laboratoriossa

The first assignment at training camp was an advance exercise, lanthanide synthesis.

Riitta-Leena Inki

The University of Helsinki will host this year’s Nordic chemistry olympiad. The games, organised for the fourth time, will attract the best young chemists from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, as well as Finland.

The quartet representing Finland includes high-school graduates of this year; Ville Kukkola from Kajaani, Altti Mäkelä from Rauma, Heikki Simojoki from Tuusula, and Jasu Vehtari from Espoo. University Instructor Kjell Knapas from the University of Helsinki is acting as coach and mentor for the team.

Mixing fluorescent substances for Euro notes at training camp

The most successful competitors in the trials organised by MAOL (the Finnish association for mathematics and science teachers) have been in training during winter and spring 2019 at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Helsinki, and completed theory assignments in chemistry on their own.

The olympic team received some last hints during the third training camp organised at the end of June. The camp started with theory lectures in the mornings. After that, the team donned white lab coats, put on their goggles, and started their practical exercises. Knapas gave the team their instructions and helped them get started. The first assignment was an advance exercise, lanthanide synthesis, sent by the international organisers. As a result, this exercise produced the kind of europium and terbium complexes used as fluorescent substances in Euro notes.

– Even though the olympiad is meant for high-school students and those who have recently graduated, it is so tough that the mere high-school curriculum is not good enough. This is why the Department of Chemistry at the University of Helsinki offers the competitors coaching, says Knapas.

Having participated in the olympiad himself, and mentored successful teams for several years, Knapas can also give valuable hints about the games themself. The competition assignments include a lab exercise and a theoretical part.

All the competitors are aiming for the world-wide olympiad at the end of July; this year it will be held on 21-30 July in Paris.

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