CSG Sponsors The Salters’ Festivals of Chemistry

04 July 2016 by CSG

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The Salters’ Festivals of Chemistry are nationwide events aimed at giving young people hands-on experience within a University laboratory setting, with the intention of encouraging them to pursue science in higher education and as a career.

For the third year I took part in events at the University of Manchester. I am really keen on what the Salters’ Institute does in its festivals. Basically they demystify what a University is and show that science is fun. Many people might not set foot in a University until they visit an open day during 6th form, but by allowing school children to take over the labs for a day, they get to meet technicians and academics, and discover that they are normal people just like everyone else!
20 schools from the North West each sent a team of 4 year 7-8 pupils, accompanied by a teacher.

The morning session consisted of a set of forensic tests. Basically there’s a murder mystery to solve and the school teams had to analyse samples found at the crime scene to determine who the culprit was. They are awarded marks for teamwork, safety, presentation of results and explaining how they reached their conclusions (and getting the right answer helps, of course). Teachers are strongly discouraged from getting involved in the lab work and the team is marked down if there is considerable interference!

The afternoon session was a timed kinetic experiment. The contestants were given a chemical reaction, and they had to alter the reaction conditions such that a colour change occurred as close to 1 minute as possible. This was probably the more fun of the 2 sessions. Initially there was slow activity at each lab bench, as pupils tried to get the reaction just right. But as the deadline loomed there were suddenly pupils frantically searching for available judges to time their reactions and be the team which recorded the closest time.

The day was rounded off with a Flash Bang show in the lecture theatre which involved explosions of hydrogen and nitrocellulose, lots of liquid nitrogen, and possibly my favourite demonstration, the ‘Barking Dog’ reaction.

As well as a chance to show young people that chemistry is interesting, it’s also a good opportunity to promote ourselves to the schools attending, CSG being one of the sponsors of the event and well-known across the University.

All in all it was a great day and I recommend it to anyone wanting to take part next time.

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