Category: Best Practices in Teaching Chemistry

Title: FSCJ North Campus REDOX Challenge Contest

Presenters:
Professor Kathleen Laurenzo
Professor  Joseph Langat
Professor John Taylor

Abstract: The presenters conduct each term in all CHM 1025C (introductory), CHM 2045C (gen chem  I), and CHM 2046C (gen chem II) chemistry courses the REDOX Challenge Contest at North Campus of Florida State College @ Jacksonville. This is a collaborative paper and pencil laboratory exercise, which in three hours transforms a novice into an advance student at balancing REDOX equations. The Student works in teams of two with an option to have  an outside expert to join their team and participate to challenge and beat Professor Taylor at REDOX balancing. Conference participants will be given a CD with all the files used in the contest. Dr. Langat and Dr. Laurenzo act as roving experts to help struggling student teams. All three attempt to attend every lab session when there is not class conflict during ‘REDOX’ week in each particular course.

Full Description: The presenters conduct each term in all CHM 1025C, CHM 2045C, and CHM 2046C chemistry courses the REDOX Challenge Contest at North Campus of FSCJ. This is a collaborative laboratory exercise, which in three hours transforms a novice into an advanced student at balancing REDOX equations. The Student works in teams of two and they may invite an outside expert  to join their team and participate to challenge and beat Professor Taylor at REDOX balancing.

Professor Taylor leads each Contest (if possible), while Dr Laurenzo and Dr Langat serve as roving experts to help the students. A student team has the option to present an equation during six rounds of the 12 (odd numbered rounds) to challenge Professor Taylor and the rest of the class.  Every team must attempt this equation. If the team has no equation on their turn, then they have the choice of five different equations as their equation for that round provided by the North campus Chemistry team.  Professor Taylor presents the equations to be balanced in the remaining even numbered rounds.

Conference participants, who are chemistry professors or their peers, will be given a CD with all the files used in the contest to take the concept home to their institution. This CD contains a 20 page REDOX Study Guide, Pre and post lab reports with up to 20 equations for homework, and 30 rounds of equations (about 75 different equations on separate forms) plus the most challenging equations in the world. Equations are presented for the contest written in both Net Ionic and Total Molecular form and in Acid, Basic, and ‘Neutral’ media. Net Ionic Acid media papers are color coded with pink sheets. Basic Media Net Ionic sheets are color coded either in blue or green colored paper. ‘Neutral’ media equations are presented using gray colored paper. Total Molecular Acid Media are colored buff; Basic media Total Molecular use Blue (if green is used for the basic ionic or vice versa). 

Conference participants are requested to circulate via email attachments WORD files of additional REDOX equations used at their school for their contests. FSCJ North Campus will act as repository for this collaboration REDOX Files and distribute new equations via email.

Preliminary Contests are conducted as a regular lab class sometimes combined with the lecture class. The final session is on the last day of the finals week, a Friday or Saturday evening get together by any/all teams who participated in at least 12 rounds and never missed a final answer. The Final session is conducted off campus on a Friday night and may continue through the evening through up to 18 additional rounds for a maximum of 30 rounds. Surviving teams after 30 rounds are considered winners as a stalemate is declared. Rounds 27-28-29-30 are the Son, Daughter, Father and Mother-of-all REDIOX equations.

Each contest is also supplemented by a pot luck lunch or dinner featuing pizza supplied by the instructors and the ‘pot luck’ is supplied by the students including all types of sweets and munchies for “brain” food for the grueling three-to-four hour session.  Since lab time is being used, an area of the college is used which permits food and drink to hold these 2-4 hour sessions. (Of course, No Food or Drink is allowed in any chemistry lab).

The first REDOX week is in the CHM 2045C classes, usually the fourth or fifth week. During the second unit, mass and solution stoichiometry, REDOX reactions are introduced including rewriting aqueous solution reactions into net ionic form. The second REDOX week in a term occurs in CHM 1025C classes during the solution and equilibrium chapters, usually the 12th or 13th week of the term. The last REDOX week occurs a week or two later in CHM 2046C very near the end of the course during the Electrochemistry unit.

 Some of the CHM 2046C students are very advanced as this may be the third time they have done this. However, since students are mobile between the four campuses, many come to North campus with very poor REDOX skills. The teams are selected so as to put a near novice with an “expert” for the first four rounds as a collaborative learning environment. But after a few rounds, the more advanced students want to work together at a higher level. At that point three levels of equations are attempted.  The near ‘Novice’ path attempts four to six of the next rounds with equations still written in net ionic form, like the 1025 sequence. The second path resembles a more 2045 path with more equations written in compound form and some include a trick or two to solve. The challenging students go for equations reserved for Rounds 11-26 and then they hit the tough four for the last two rounds to separate the champions of REDOX.  The 2046 professor decides the level of play during the rounds as the class matures and gain greater ability.

To this date, three beginning level and 22 college chemistry level students have solved “The Mother” in the last four years. The faculty use this contest as a deciding factor as who should be nominated for their best students for the annual North Campus Outstanding Freshman Chemistry Student awards present at the annual Academic Honors Convocation each April.


The three presenters see such great maturity through this process that they would like to develop another similar activity to improve problem solving skills, especially in 2046. We have concluded this is a unique concept, and just will not work with the enthusiasm and success of this event. Former students  return, who are not registered, and participate as experts for teams.