Chemistry Challenge at UCL

On Tuesday, Mr Rickard, Charlotte, Izzy, Sadie and I went to UCL to take part in a chemistry challenge organised by Salters’ Institute Festivals of Chemistry. When we arrived at the venue we were directed into a large lecture room where we were welcomed, given the day’s timetable, and told about the day’s challenges. All competing schools were taken to the Turner Lab and shown our workstations. We worked in pairs, so we could test each experiment separately and compare our results.

The first challenge was in four sections, three of which were practicals. Our target was to identify the thief who had stolen a trophy by following step-by-step practicals, solving small riddles and decoding ciphers. Some of the practicals took quite a long time and we had to work very quickly, but it was lots of fun. We then had lunch outside in nearby park as it was a very beautiful day.

After lunch, we went back to the lab and the next challenge was explained to us. Surprisingly, it was easier than the first, even though it took much more time and precision. We were given some equipment and a set of instructions to produce sulfur by mixing two acids.  The aim was for the acids to merge and create sulfur in exactly one minute. After repeating the tests around seven or eight times, we were able to find the right mix. Our test was judged by three of the judges who were in the lab with us.

Afterwards, we went back to the lecture room for some demonstrations by one of UCL’s chemists. Of the many different experiments we were shown, my favourite was the last one – liquid nitrogen ice cream. The chemist put custard, sugar, cream, chocolate buttons and raspberries into a pot, before adding liquid nitrogen. We all had a taste – and it was delicious! Finally, we had the prize giving. Although we didn’t win, the whole experience broadened our knowledge of chemistry and our understanding of how it affects us daily.

Tona, Year 8

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