07 Information Search

Event 07 Information Search

2020 Topic:  Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)


The Environmental Protection Agency (USEAP) writes “Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment around the world. Because they can be transported by wind and water, most POPs generated in one country can and do affect people and wildlife far from where they are used and released. They persist for long periods of time in the environment and can accumulate and pass from one species to the next through the food chain.”  For more information: https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/persistent-organic-pollutants-global-issue-global-response.

For this year’s Information Search competition, we have selected the following POPs:


DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, CAS 50-29-3)

Toxaphene or Chlorocamphene (CAS 8001-35-2)

PCB 77 (3,3’,4,4’-tetrachlorobiphenyl, CAS 32598-13-3)

PCDF (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran, CAS 51207-31-9)

TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, CAS 1746-01-6)


Event Specific Requirements:

  • A team of 2 or 3 students must compete in this event. 
  • School with two teams MUST select different molecules to research and present.  The two teams MUST compete in the same time slot.
  • 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 in the Information Search portion of the event. 
  • 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 their molecule. 
    • 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.


Molecule Guidelines:

  • The molecular model should be made using painted Styrofoam balls and wooden skewers. Most spray paints will cause Styrofoam to denature ("melt"); be careful to buy the special Styrofoam spray paint. BE AWARE THAT low density Styrofoam balls crumble when rubbed together.  Make sure to use protective gear as necessary when preparing your model; read the safety and usage information carefully on the glue and paint. 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. 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 Styrofoam balls, Paint, Wooden Skewers and Glue are permitted!  Styrofoam balls, wooden skewers, glue and Styrofoam spray paint can be purchased at Michaels or other craft stores.  Wooden skewers may also be found at a supermarket (ex: Shop Rite).
  • COLOR CODE:  Use black for carbon, white for hydrogen, red for oxygen, blue for nitrogen, green for chlorine, yellow for iodine and orange for phosphorus.
  • 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.


Event Day Information:

  • 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 Information Search questions.  In order to provide written answers to the six questions, each team will be provided with one computer with access to the Internet.  At the completion of 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 has been 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 on the first floor so it can later be returned to their schools.


Judging Criteria:

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




NJIT Research Librarian: Joanne Dera