Four pupils from Year 7 at Barrow Hills School in Witley took part in the ’ Festival of Chemistry at the University of Surrey this week. The children: Sophie Rodriguez, Ben Clare, Ollie Gook and Freddie Sligo-Young had to undertake two practical challenges. The first was the Salters’ Challenge where they had to find the murderer through paper chromatography followed by identifying the metal and non- metal part of some salts. They then had to match the evidence up to the suspects to eventually find the murderer. The second challenge, in the afternoon, was the University Challenge and the team had to make three polymer materials – something sticky, something bouncy and something stringy. The overall aim was to make a material and then test it for its ability to do a job. For something sticky they made glue out of milk curds and either sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) or calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and stuck two sticks together with it before hanging weights off it to see how much it could hold. For something bouncy they made putty with PVA glue and borax and then tested how high it could bounce. For something stringy they made nylon and measured how long they could get their string.
There were some 15 schools represented, including many senior schools, so the Barrow Hills team members were overjoyed when they found out, that despite competing against older children, they had actually won the competition. Dr Chris Amodio a Senior Tutor at the University and the chief judge of the competition, announced the prize winners.
This fantastic achievement was the combined result of the children being able to participate in more practical science lessons at the School’s recently re-furbished Science laboratories, thorough subject knowledge and also the team work that they displayed throughout the day. In addition, it was noted that the team had asked questions, made careful observations and spoke to the judges with confidence. The children were told that the key attributes of any chemist is to have an enquiring mind by constantly asking “why?”
The four pupils were delighted to be presented with their prizes in School assembly on Wednesday morning and also to be able to present a prize of three sets of Molymod molecular models to the Headmaster that they had won on behalf of the School. Deputy Head, Iosold O’Brien said, “ I was very proud of the way the children approached each task, allocating roles to each team member and then conferring to finalise their outcomes and repeating experiments to get more data when they realised they had inconclusive results. They also carefully evaluated their methodology and even cleared up as a team.”