Norwich Science Olympiad, June 29-30 2010

Tim Hunkin
Tim Hunkin melting copper with a high current

Tim Hunkin, TV personality and proprietor of the arcade on Southwold pier gave the Frank Halliwell lecture at the secondary event.

His presentation "Demystifying electricity" showed how electricity and magnetism were linked and are applied in the arcade games that feature on Southwold pier. The presentation started with demonstrations of melting a copper rod and the repulsion of two long wires. Having shown some simple motors and explained why the "grabber" games at the arcade rarely get your prize to the chute, Tim moved on to his inventions. We were introduced to Gladys - the burglar beater - his very first invention, together with a series of videos and explanations of other devices which can be seen in Southwold. Probably the most astonishing thing, however, was the crisp packet loudspeaker! Some more of his contraptions can be seen on his website.

When not having electricity demystified the other participants were busy in the practical events. These involved, amongst others, building towers and platforms with very limited materials and extracting enzymes from Mung beans. At the end of the day medals (gold, silver and bronze) were awarded to the top three teams in each competition and the winning school was awarded a handsome trophy to put on display for a year.

Lorelly Wilson
Lorelly Wilson in her trademark pink lab coat and her ping pong ball demonstration.

The primary event took household science for its theme this year. The competitors had to make scales (to weigh an egg), timers (to cook an egg), toasters which made the bread jump as high as possible (to make the toast for the egg) and those doing the washing up had to make the biggest bubble they possibly could.

As a rest from the competitive events the particpants were treated to a demonstration lecture and one of a number of activities. The latter might have been making a DNA necklace, looking at the minibeasts in the UEA lake or building an arthropod to name but a few.

The demonstration lecture was "Chemistry with Cabbage" by Lorelly Wilson from the University of Manchester. Lorelly treated her audience to a range of simple physical and chemical demonstrations which can all be done at home. These ranged from turning cabbage water different colours with acids (vinegar - red) and alkali (milk of magnesia-green), sticking a ping-pong ball on a milk bottle by filling it (the bottle) with water, and making a fire extinguisher from bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Her website contains full details of all these experiments and more.

Top Class - Inter school quiz competition

Top Class Final Year 6 2010
The final of the Primary (Yr6) Top Class Competition in 2010

This competition (Top Class) ran over several weeks from March to July and comprised matches for whole classes or a combination of classes. The pupils are allocated to ten teams with up to three students in any one team. Each team works at a computer that downloads multiple-choice questions from the Internet. All the questions refer to attractive images depicting some scientific situation. The teams have one attempt to answer the question collectively. The quicker the correct answer is given, the more points the team scores. You can see a demonstration on the Top Class web-site. In the first two rounds, the classes compete against the clock. After Round 1, the sixteen classes with the highest total scores progressed to Round 2. In the quarter- and semi-finals, the classes play matches head-to-head against each other over the internet. Each team in one class is paired with a particular team in the other class to play a game. All ten games take place at the same time. In each game, the two teams simultaneously receive the same questions.

Both Year 6 and Year 9 finals took place in the Drama Studio at the University of East Anglia. Teams of three contestants from the winning class were given practical tasks in front of a packed house. These included quick-fire questions, a version of criss-cross quiz and practical tasks. Teams were asked to identify two identical solutions by adding an ingredient from a supermarket, match the latin names of plants to their fruits, put sceintific events in chronological order and work out the appearance of the children of Mr Strong and Little Miss Sunshine.

The Year 9 final between Methwold and Hobart was won by Methwold High School and the Year 6 final between Norwich High School for Girls and Town Close was very closely fought but Norwich High School edged in front in the final round.