Potions in Pathology

By Lynn McCain | May 29

Washtenaw Elementary Science Olympiad (WESO) is a volunteer organization and a division of the national Science Olympiad that coordinates a county-wide science competition amongst all elementary schools in Washtenaw County. Students choose their topic of interest in January and teams are formed with coaches (generally parent or teacher volunteers). This year there were 15 events for students to choose from and 32 schools present for the county-wide competition held at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School on April 20, 2024. Individual teams meet weekly until the competition date. Coaches are not allowed to assist during the competition; it is solely on the kids to use what they have done and learned over the course of three months to compete against the other teams. One of the events is Potions, which is a popular choice due to the Harry Potter books and movies. Potions is only available to 4th and 5th graders and is an introduction to basic chemistry and laboratory practices. It
Potions Team from Angell Elementary with Eric Jedynakcovers categories such as states of matter, atomic models, physical and chemical changes, Periodic table trends and characteristics, chemical equations, and pH. The Potions teams from Angell Elementary recently toured Michigan Medicine Pathology following their season. Both grades competed and the 5th grade team finished in 3rd place. Great job, Potions Team!

“I was roped into coaching Potions because my middle child was interested in competing in Potions and there was no coach,” explained Eric Jedynak, from Pathology Informatics. “I figured that I had some basic chemistry and laboratory experience, however, both were a little rusty.” Each week, Jedynak led his team in a 30-minute lesson followed by a 30-minute experiment. “It was definitely more effort than I was expecting but I tried to make it as fun as possible.” Because of their hard work and great performance in the competition, Jedynak thought the students would appreciate seeing these concepts in practice. He reached out to Karen Barron, who leads our Allied Health efforts, to see if it may be possible to have his team visit UH and tour the Chemistry core lab, since it is right in line with the WESO event. She was very excited about this idea and was able to coordinate the tour date, register the students on site via DPSS, provide badges and lanyards, and secure members of the lab to give the tour. Jedynak continued, “She gave them coats for the tour making it seem more like Potions from the movies! Eric Vasbinder (Chemistry), Matt Heilbronn (Hematology), and Kim Blanc (Blood Bank) were fantastic tour guides! They were able to show the students a variety of things, let them perform some quick tests, look inside the instrumentation, and tour the lab space.” As they were walking through the lab, one of the students said, “This is actually really interesting.” This student just may be one of our next generation of Pathologists someday.