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The North Carolina International Science Challenge (NCISC) is a yearly North Carolina science competition hosted by North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center (SMT Center) for high school students. The selected students travel to Beijing, China to present their science research projects at the Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition the third week of March. The competition requires students to undertake a research project, write an abstract explaining their research problem and present their research to a panel of scientists and engineers. The students selected spend a week in Beijing presenting their research, meeting students from other countries, and experiencing various cultural and scientific events. The NCISC is offered jointly by the SMT Center and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. This blog is from one of the students participating in the competition. Editor’s note: The Burroughs Wellcome Fund supports EducationNC.

Day 3: 用夜啼薄膜从煤灰提出稀土元素 (Using Liquid Membranes to Selectively Recover Rare Earth Elements from Coal Ash)

Going to the auditorium today, there was a clear sign of the relieved stress and tension in the atmosphere. Everyone was not as nervous as we weren’t going to be judged. However, we haven’t completely cleared the obstacles yet; we had to present our research to the public. I was getting quite nervous because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to present my research effectively to the public. However, I was able to meet and interact with the Ukranian translator (刘笑梅 Liu Xiao Mei). After using Chinglish and explaining my project to hear, we were able to figure out together a good Chinese translation to represent my project! The title of the day is the result of our hard work. Countless of people, students, adults, young kids, and even old people came by my project, and as soon as they saw my English project, they began to walk away…that was until I said to them in Chinese, “Do you want to know about my project?” Without fail, all of them came back to me and wondered about the tale I was about to spin. I was able to convey the general gist of my project to them. It was from my continuous explanation to the public that I got to see how enthusiastic the Chinese people are to science. It was something that strung deeply in me, and it ignited a feeling that I should help make science more appreciated in the USA.

After the busy morning, we had a science activity day where the US delegation made some face masks with the 3D plastics. I made Aang from the Nickelodeon Cartoon “Avatar and the Last Airbender.” Following that fun task, we came to the special award ceremony. The music and the dancing were great, and I was really interested in all of the cultural activities that each countries’ delegation had performed. Though none of the US members won a special award, there was a special feeling that I got seeing people that I spent the last 3 days with win some awards. We then called it a night and eagerly awaited for the second part of the award ceremony tomorrow.

Day 4: Haggling

We woke up for the 2nd award ceremony, and as soon as we got there with all of the music blaring, I immediately thought that it was too early in the morning for such festivities. However, we still powered through. We were quite fortunate that every single member of the US delegation won a first prize award, which was very exciting. It felt like we were Olympians as we even took pictures of us biting the medals!

Following such a boisterous morning, we relaxed until the afternoon, where everyone who competed in the international competition went to the Great Wall. I have already been to the Great Wall multiple times, but I was still excited to go back. The air quality in Beijing today was bad, and so the Chinese volunteers all gave us face masks. All of the adults of our delegation decided to buy a 2-way tram trip of the Great Wall, but us kids decided to walk it; it was miserable. At least, during the walk, it was quite miserable. It was so long, and the steps were uneven with some steps being really high and really steep. The air quality was not helping at all, and so it was quite a task. However, after making it up to the top, we felt quite accomplished, and we decided to tram down (which turned out to double our admission price but it was worth it haha). Coming down, Ritvik wanted to buy a cute panda. The guy originally tried to sell it for 65 RMB but with my excellent expertise, I was able to haggle the price down to 25 RMB. However, despite my achievements in haggling, it was nothing compared to Serena’s haggling ability. She was able to negotiate her way through all of the trade deals in the Market, and cut the price down from items which were worth 85 RMB to 25 RMB or less!

However, all is well may not always end well.

After the Great Wall, we came back to the hotel to eat dinner. Unfortunately, the Chinese volunteer students had to leave tonight because the rooms they were booked in had to be used for other reservations. As such, it was kind of a sad and solemn dinner. It was quite cheerful as we had given them the gifts that we brought from the USA, and in the words of Tracey, “There was a moment where I almost broke down”. We all exchanged our tearful goodbyes, and it actually felt sad that this amazing experience is coming to a close. I made sure to add Serena, Tracey, and David on Facebook and Wechat (and I even told them about Snapchat) to continue my connection with them.

After all our troubles today with the Great Wall and dinner, I was mentally and physically exhausted and tired, and I slept at 8:00 PM. I missed the planned card game that we had with the Australia, Israel, South Africa, and etc delegations, and so this blog is my apology to them. I’m going to blame the jetlag.

Kevin Jin

Kevin Jin is a student at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. He is originally from Charlotte. Jin’s project is titled: “Selective Recovery of Rare Earth Elements Utilizing Novel Liquid Membrane Processes.”