07 Information Search

This event is limited to the first 18 entries

2019 Topic: UVA and UVB Blockers


Sunlight is a double-edged sword.  It is essential for life on Earth and required for vitamin D production in the majority of land vertebrates.  A lack of sunlight can cause severe depression in humans.  But it can also be harmful. UVB rays (290 – 320 nm*) found on sunny days cause the skin to burn and are responsible for most types of skin cancer. UVA rays (320 – 400 nm*) are always present cause the skin to age and become leathery.  To protect us from the harmful effects of UVA and UVB irradiation, molecular sunscreens have been developed. The molecules below are either UVA blockers, UVB blockers, or both.

Avobenzone (CAS 70356-09-1)
Menthyl anthranilate (CAS 134-09-8)
Octyl methoxycinnamate (CAS 5466-77-3)
Homosalate (CAS 118-56-9)
Oxybenzone (CAS 131-57-7)
Sulisobenzone (CAS 4065-45-6)


*Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The FDA regulates sunscreens in the United States.  Different sources may indicate slightly different ranges for UVA and UVB.


  • A team of 2 or 3 students must compete in this event. Schools with two teams MUST select different molecules to research and present.
  • BEFORE the day of the event, the team will select one of the molecules and make a molecular model using Low-Density Styrofoam balls and wooden skewers.
  • The team should be prepared to use the Internet to answer general knowledge questions about all the molecules as well as other molecules in the event category during the Internet Search.  
  • The Information Search portion of the event is to be completed in 25 minutes ON THE DAY OF COMPETITION.
  • The team should be prepared to answer two oral questions about the molecule they built.
    • Question #1 will focus on molecular geometry (such as chirality, identifying co-planar atoms, hybridization, bond lengths, and angles).
    • Question #2 will focus on the relationship between structure and function.  Note: Students are not expected to know specific proprietary information about the compounds.  They should, however, understand the importance and role of different functional groups.
    • Two teams from the same school must compete in the same time slot for Event 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 unless approved by the NJCO Director or Co-Directors.  Requested times will be adjusted for this!


  • The molecular model should be made using painted Low-Density Styrofoam balls and wooden skewers; these items including Styrofoam spray paint (that won’t “melt” Styrofoam) can be purchased at Michael's or other craft stores.  BE AWARE THAT Low-Density Styrofoam balls crumble when rubbed together.  Use different sized Styrofoam balls to represent the relative sizes of atoms and paint them according to the color code below.  The maximum size permitted is 3-inch balls.  Wooden skewers and glue are to be used for the bonds. Wooden skewers may also be found at a supermarket (ex: ShopRite). The model may be mounted on cardboard or kept in a box for transportation; however, it must be fully visible on all sides to judge it properly.  No other materials other than Low-Density Styrofoam balls, Paint, Wooden Skewers and Glue are permitted! 
  • COLOR CODE:  Use black for carbon, white for hydrogen, red for oxygen, blue for nitrogen, yellow for iodine and orange for phosphorus.  Most spray paints will cause Styrofoam to denature ("melt"); be careful to buy the special Styrofoam spray paint.  Make sure to use protective gear as necessary when preparing your model; read the safety and usage information carefully on the glue and paint.
  • The model will be judged as to how accurately it represents the molecule’s structure.  The team must provide a key that provides information about bond angles, bond lengths, and hybridization in the molecule.


  • On Event Day each team should bring the model to the designated room for judging.  During the allocated session, each team will participate in the "Internet Search" and "Molecule Questioning" portions of the event.
  • Teams will be asked six Internet Search questions.  In order to provide written answers to the six questions, NJIT will provide one computer with access to the Internet for each team.  At the completion of the scheduled session, each team must submit their written answers to the questions provided.  See example questions from previous events.
  • Students may consult the List of Suggested Databases that was developed for this event.
  • On the day of the competition, student teams will be asked two questions about their model.  Teams will orally respond to the questions in order to demonstrate their knowledge and clarify their reasoning.  Student responses should not exceed 3 minutes.  Students may also be asked points of clarification if there is any confusion about their model.
  • Teams must clean up and remove the model when their session is over, and return it to the team area to be returned to their schools.


  • Model construction including bond and hybridization key (50%)
  • Answers to two oral questions about the model on Event day (25%)
  • Answers to six written Internet search questions  on Event day (25%)


NJIT Research Librarian: Joanne Dera (based on a format created by Bruce Slutsky)