The 21st Regional Chemistry Olympiad: The last In-Silico Olympiad

The UPLB Chemical Kinetics Society (CHEMO), alongside the Kapisanang Kimika ng Pilipinas-Southern Tagalog, Inc. (KKP-ST Inc.), in partnership with the Institute of Chemistry of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB IC) held the 21st Regional Chemistry Olympiad on January 20-28, 2023. 34 schools, 26 from Region IV-A and 8 from Region IV-B participated in the last online Olympiad. Since it is an in-silico event, the theme, fittingly, is “PlasTHINK: Challenging Communities and Advancing Solutions to Microplastics and their Effects on the Environment”, focusing on the environmental chemistry of microplastics and the issues, trends, problems, and advancements concerning it. 

The Regional Chemistry Olympiad is an annual regional competition for high school students in Region IV-A (CALABARZON) and IV-B (MIMAROPA). It has three primary competitions: The PNCO Regional Eliminations, which is a competition that aims to select the five students who will compete in the Philippine National Chemistry Olympiad, the 12th Regional Feature Writing Contest, which aims to test the writing skills of science writers within the region, and the 19th Regional Chem-in-hue contest, which tests the poster making skills of the region’s students. Two new sub-events were also held: ChemTOK, a short-form video competition that aims to produce informative content that will be posted on the CHEMO TikTok account, and a symposium where speakers talk about a topic or research related to the theme for the general audience.

The event began with an opening ceremony on January 20, 2022. After some opening remarks by CHEMO’s President, Mr. Ehrol Lasin, and welcoming remarks by the UPLB IC Director, Dr. Marivic Lacsamana, a quick roll call of the participating schools was held. The ceremony was followed by the symposium. The events of the first day were broadcasted online on CHEMO’s Facebook (FB) page via FB Live.

The first speaker featured was Dr. Amelia B. Hizon-Fradejas, head of the Analytical and Environmental Chemistry Division (AECD) of UPLB IC, Doctor of Engineering (PhD) in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, from Hiroshima University (2009), and a Young Chemistry Forum Presenter Awardee during the 46th KKP-ST Annual Convention. She primarily discussed the microplastic problem in the country, how it has spread throughout the environment, specifically in the sediment, biota, and food, and the current research being done to address this problem.

The second presenter was Engr. Ezra D. Osorio, a Design Civil and Environmental Engineer at AMH Philippines, Inc. since 2019, has a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering Degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman (2019) and is one of the pioneers of microplastic research in the country. As one of the technical members involved in mapping out plastic flow throughout the nation, he focused on innovations and solutions to the microplastic problem. His presentation covered the sources of plastic pollution, factors causing their spread, properties, and classification of microplastics,  analysis methods, solutions, and innovative ways of curbing the spread of microplastics.

The main events started simultaneously the next day, on January 21, 2023. The PNCO eliminations featured a synchronous online written examination using the online Quilgo application. The 12th Regional Feature Writing Competition was also held synchronously and submitted via Google Docs. The contestants also submitted videos of them reading the highlights of their essays. Finally, the 19th Regional Chem-in-Hue competition was held synchronously, and the posters, whether digital or traditional, were submitted in a PNG format. All participants were monitored carefully via Zoom, and measures were taken to ensure the fairness of the competitions.

The ChemTOK Competition deals with TikToks submitted from January 3 to January 14, 2023, to CHEMO’s Google Drive, alongside the script and references used for the video. The submissions were posted simultaneously on January 15, 2023, and the last day for determining the likes received by the videos was on January 22, 2023. The TikToks were also judged by a panel based on criteria emphasizing educational and entertainment value.

The closing and awarding ceremony was held a week after the competitions, on January 28, 2023. Mr. Dan Jhapet L. Lino-on from Bacoor National High School won the championship, followed by Carl Audric Guia from the UP Rural High School, James Paul R. Tisalona from the Southern Tagalog branch of the Philippine Science High School (PSHS-CALABARZON), Christopher Jr. E. Aduviso from the Bacoor National High School, and Arabella Clarissa M. Sayat, who is also from PSHS-CALABARZON. These five students would go on to represent the region in the PNCO. For the 12th Regional Feature Writing contest, John Matthew E. Bolante from Atheneum School took the championship, followed by Althea Paula V. Hinojosa from Laguna Senior High School and Frances Ysabelle E. Agdamag from the Batangas State University Integrated High School. The 19th Regional Chem-in-Hue competition was won by Mary Heart Garcia from STI College- Santa Cruz, followed by Amanda Gayle DL. Villaluz of the Atheneum School and Mechaela T. Onte from the Santo Niño School of Roxas, Inc. Finally, the Oriental Mindoro National High School team won the ChemTOK championship, followed by the Quezon National High School – Palawan team and the Caritas Don Bosco School team. The Pedro Guevara Memorial National High School team, however, was commended for the popularity of their video and won the Popularity Award. 
As the event draws to a close, CHEMO acknowledges the cooperation of KKP and IC-UPLB, as well as the hard work and dedication of their facilitators and resident members who were part of the event’s technical working committees. The event marks not just another successful Regional Chemistry Olympiad, but the end of an era of online and in silico events. As the next RCO draws closer, CHEMO, KKP-ST, Inc., and UPLB IC hope to continue providing quality service in organizing these events and spreading awareness and interest in chemistry to the youth. (John Emmanuell P. Ramirez, Virgilio Jr. T. Aala)


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