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Sixth-former’s Economics essay takes top prize in international competition

Year 12’s Sunay Challa was one of the first-prize winners in a prestigious competition for his exploration of how artificial intelligence could help economists solve some of the most pressing problems facing the world over the next 20 years.

His 1,500-word composition won him the Economics section – and a £1,000 prize – in the annual New College of the Humanities Essay Competition.

After his entry reached a shortlist of 350 from the initial 5,000 entries, Sunay was invited to a virtual awards ceremony, where he learned that he had secured the top prize. The judges praised his essay for its holistic approach and for his examination of the specific ways in which AI could benefit economists.

Congratulating him on his success, QE’s Head of Economics Shamendra Uduwawala said: “In a thought-provoking and insightful essay, Sunay identified a good sample of significant global problems and then set out exactly how AI might be able to help solve them, setting out both the capabilities and the limitations of this technology.”

The global competition for Year 12 students run by London’s New College of the Humanities involves participants answering a single question in one of seven humanities subjects: Art History; Economics; English; History; Law; Philosophy and Politics & International Relations. First, second and third prizes are awarded for each subject.

The question for the Economics category entered by Sunay was: Which problems will economists need to solve within the next 20 years and will artificial intelligence help them?

Sunay said: “I began my essay by considering the concept of Artificial Intelligence and the tools it can offer to economists and then then went on to look at the most significant future socio-political and environmental issues economists will be forced to deal with.”

Paying particular attention to how “data-fuelled modelling and solutions” could be used to improve existing systems, Sunay focused on five topics:

  • Energy usage
  • Wildlife protection
  • Agricultural issues
  • Cars
  • Healthcare.

He included specific examples of the way AI is already being successfully used, mentioning, for example, a software program which identifies and tracks individual giraffes in Kenya by their unique coat patterns and ear outlines. An immense task, involving some 100,000 animals, it would be impossible for humans to undertake effectively without technological help. Yet, he wrote, the use of artificial intelligence had transformed the conservation effort: “A computer’s speed and ease of tracking means the giraffes are more effectively protected, with the giraffe population falling by 40% pre-AI and only 2% after its implementation.”

In the field of healthcare, Sunay wrote: “Although AI cannot find cures, it can definitely speed up their discovery by finding correlations in huge data sets, and this may prove critical in saving countless lives.”

In his conclusion, Sunay noted that “…we can see that wherever it is applied, AI brings to the table the unrivalled ability to parse through huge volumes of data in record time, and in turn save money and increase efficiency…While it may not be able to solve problems like humans, AI brings unmatched advantages to any task and as such will prove hugely beneficial in trying to solve economic problems.”

As well as the £1,000 prize money, Sunay wins an award that will be presented to him at a ceremony for which, because of the pandemic, no date has yet been set.

  • You can read Sunay’s essay here.
“Who I was didn’t matter…all he saw was the colour of my skin”

Perspective, QE’s new pupil-led forum looking at issues such as race, has been launched and is already going from strength to strength, with involvement from current boys, alumni and senior staff.

Set up in collaboration with the School in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, Perspective aims both to provide opportunities for discussion and to give boys useful resources so that they can easily learn more themselves.

The first Perspective panel discussion has now taken place, chaired by School Vice-Captains Thomas Mgbor and Ayodimeji Ojelade, who have been key figures in establishing the forum. Old Elizabethan brothers Kelvin and Elliot Hughes were invited as special guests to join the Zoom conversation with boys from Year 11 and 12. Headmaster Neil Enright and Assistant Head (Pupil Development) Michael Feven also took part.

In addition, information on various topics has now been added to eQE, the School’s online platform, on a dedicated Perspective page that was created by Thomas and Ayodimeji, with input from QE’s team of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Ambassadors.

Mr Enright thanked Kelvin and Elliot for contributing to the one-and-a-quarter hour online discussion – “so informative for me personally”.

The Headmaster added: “I take the responsibility really seriously – this is the tip of the iceberg of the conversations that we need to continue to have and I am fully committed, as are my colleagues, to continuing and sustaining these discussions and to enabling them to take place in all parts of the School – it’s a huge undertaking.”

The Perspective eQE page now provides a basic introduction and links to further resources on the:

  • Black Lives Matter movement
  • Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • GSM (Gender & Sexual Minorities) community and Pride
  • Yemen humanitarian crisis.

Mr Feven said: “Perspective is an exciting development in promoting the ‘student voice’ at the School and in educating the boys on social issues. With forthcoming updates due to focus on gender equality, climate change, the Hong Kong protests, and the Xinjiang re-education camps (and there is an ambition for further issues to be covered in time), I am hopeful that Perspective will continue to provide a platform for further activity and continuing discussion in the next academic year.”

The Zoom discussion featured a number of topics, including the racism faced by participants during their lives.

Kelvin and Elliot, who have both been very supportive of the School as alumni over a number of years, offered to take part, bringing their own understanding to current pupils as those from the generation above.

Kelvin (OE 1999–2006) recalled one incident when, as an 11-year-old, he went to a football camp in Totteridge Lane. Another participant made a racist comment to him, but he did not understand it, so asked his mother about it when he got back.

His mum, normally very mild-mannered, was extremely angry and upset at what had been said. A tense discussion later took place among the adults at the camp, which culminated in the other child – who had himself not understood what he was saying, since it was something he had picked up at home – leaving.

“It was really interesting to start to realise that the point of difference and point of tension was the colour of your skin, and I think it was a real moment where something changed for me,” said Kelvin. “My mum had moved across to the UK in the 1980s. My mum was mixed-race and my grandma, my white grandma, had lived in Ghana during independence and also faced racism, the other way around.”

After a career working in various roles, including consultancy to social mission-driven organisations, Kelvin is now the Chief Executive Officer of Clean Team Ghana, an organisation working to provide affordable sanitation options for residents in the city of Kumasi.

During the Zoom discussion, he also related another incident from when he was in the Sixth Form at QE. He had gone out during the lunchbreak to meet his girlfriend. Dressed in his suit, he was sat waiting in his car and had been doing some A-level History revision when a policeman approached. “He immediately accused me of being a drug-dealer…All he saw was a young, black guy out to cause trouble: who I was didn’t matter; what I had achieved didn’t – all he saw was the colour of my skin and immediately put me in a box.”

Kelvin’s brother, Elliot (2002–2009), a property specialist in London, thanked Thomas and Ayodimeji for chairing the discussion and praised QE for supporting Perspective: “Not every single school and teacher would be willing to use their time to facilitate this sort of thing.”

QE was, he added, well-placed to “start to accelerate the change and, hopefully, become a catalyst for other schools to do the same”.

Engineers nominated for top construction industry award – and an opportunity to support their bid to win another

A Sixth Form engineering team’s innovative design project aimed at reducing the risk of injury from band saws is in the running for a major construction industry award.

The Year 12 team’s suggested improvements to band saw guards and dust extraction systems have been nominated for an Innovation Award in the annual Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards 2020 finals, where their fellow competitors include professional firms working in the industry. They are also hoping to win a new award introduced this year – the People’s Choice award, which is decided by popular vote.

The four boys – Brandon Ionev, Thomas Mgbor, Kai Sethna and Hugh Westcott – worked with office design specialists Morgan Lovell on the project. With the nomination, the four are following in the footsteps of other QE EES teams of recent years whose inventions under the Engineering Project Challenges initiative have achieved regional and national success.

Their entry was one of just two in their category to be selected by the judges to be interviewed in a ‘head-to-head’ at the virtual awards ceremony on Thursday 2nd July.

QE’s Head of Technology, Michael Noonan, said: “My congratulations go to these four students, who worked hard to come up with innovative designs that fulfilled the brief and were based on sound engineering principles. With the support of the Elizabethan community, they also stand a good chance of clinching the People’s Choice Award. We think they thoroughly deserve it, so please cast your vote now! Thank you.”

The deadline for voting is 5pm on Thursday 2nd July. To vote, visit the awards page describing the boys’ entry, scroll to the bottom and click the People’s Choice button.

During visits to construction sites, boys saw that workers often fail to use the blade guard fitted to existing band saws, because it is tedious and time-consuming to reset the guard manually each time to adjust it for different thicknesses of material.

To address the issue, the boys conducted extensive research over six months. They came up with three designs, all with the same basic idea. The material pushes against the bottom of the blade guard, causing a force that pushes upwards and adjusts the blade guard automatically to the correct and ideal height for cutting. Two of the designs use simple rails and sliders to autonomously adjust the height, while the third uses a rack and pinion. With no user input needed, saw operators can work in the same way as before, but much more safely.

An additional benefit of the designs is that they incorporate significant improvements to the existing dust extraction systems of saws, thus reducing dust exposure – another health & safety concern – and allowing a more precise cut to be made because of the enhanced visibility of the cutting service.

The designs would work with different types of saw and, unlike existing guards, they cover the blade from multiple angles, which is another safety improvement. Because they can be retrofitted to existing machines, the guards hold out the promise of improving safety without huge expenditure. The boys were assisted by their industry mentor, representing Morgan Lovell, Health Safety & Wellbeing Manager Alex Wood.

During the spring, just before the COVID-19 social distancing measures were put in place, the Morgan Lovell team and a second QE team working with Morgan Lovell’s sister company, Overbury, gave presentations on their projects to members of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH, a UK-based global chartered body for health & safety professionals),  at UBM’s centre, close to Blackfriars Bridge in London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beating the ‘porch pirates’: Ashwin’s invention wins international award

Year 10 pupil Ashwin Sridhar’s design for a doorstep smart box to stop delivery packages being stolen has won a top prize in an international competition.

Ashwin’s device, which he named the Raptor Adversus, uses a host of measures to thwart thieves trying to gain access to packages inside – and even sounds the alarm if anyone tries to steal the whole box.

The Raptor Adversus won him the Best in Show, Senior Division Europe award, in SAM Labs’ STEAM and Coding Creators Competition. Through the global competition, SAM Labs – a UK-based company making app-enabled construction kits widely used in education – challenged pupils in Covid-19 lockdown to showcase their coding projects.

Ashwin’s award was announced in a global awards livestream broadcast.

Congratulating him, QE Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “Ashwin’s competition entry was well illustrated and included an account of the three different iterations of his device, thus demonstrating that he had worked very methodically to tackle the problem of package-stealing.”

The competition submission began by outlining the problem. “Online delivery has been integrated into our society,” Ashwin wrote. “Forbes estimates the average person in the United States receives up to 21 packages a year. However, with online delivery’s increase in popularity, a new epidemic has arisen – package-stealing.”

Using CAD software, Ashwin designed a device aimed not only at preventing thefts, but also at deterring thieves from even making the attempt.

His Raptor Adversus (meaning ‘against a thief’) design features:

  • A motorised safe door opened with a passcode known to the homeowner and shared with the postman or delivery person
  • An audible alarm
  • A camera
  • A tilt-and-pressure sensor
  • Coloured indicator lights coded to indicate whether or not the box is empty and whether a letter or parcel is inside.

His initial iteration was designed to take a photo and send it to the homeowner’s phone when anyone used, or attempted to use, the passcode system. The alarm would sound – drawing the attention of people in the area, in case the person at the box was a would-be thief. Only then, after a delay, would the box open.

Ashwin realised that this would only deter thieves who were actually attempting to open the box, so his first refinement was to include a proximity sensor (with a range that could be adjusted by the owner) that would sound an alarm and take a photo of anyone who got close.

In the third iteration, he added the tilt sensor to sound an alarm if anyone tried to remove the whole box.

Per ardua ad astra: QE boys’ success in lockdown space competition

A QE trio have won a major prize in a digital competition focused on the future of space travel.

The team, who are all from the same Year 9 Pearce form group, took the Innovation Award in the Galactic Challenge One Small Step competition with their design for a vehicle to explore the Moon’s surface in 2030 in preparation for establishing a human settlement there.

Several other QE teams and individuals also won awards in the competition, which was organised by a team led by Old Elizabethan Aadil Kara (2010–2017), who is Chair of Galactic Challenge.

Last year, QE hosted a Galactic Challenge event at the School and had planned to do so again this summer until the Covid-19 restrictions forced its cancellation. Instead, Galactic Challenge ran the special digital competition.

QE’s Head of Physics, Jonathan Brooke, said: “This was an exciting competition, requiring boys to exhibit creativity and scientific understanding. And at a time when everyone’s horizons have been shrunk because of lockdown, it also gave boys a timely opportunity to turn their gaze to the stars.”

Entrants were asked to produce a design for a vehicle that would be home to four astronauts during a six-month mission, taking into account factors such as how electrical power would be provided and what would be needed to support the astronauts’ living conditions.
Vignesh Rajiv, Maxwell Johnson and Sai Sivakumar took the Innovation Award – one of only four major prizes open to their age group. They proposed HNHV, the Helium-3 Noisu Habitation Vehicle (pictured right and left).

In their award citation, the competition judges explained why they had chosen the team’s entry: “This interesting proposal identified Helium-3 as a potential material to be mined from the Moon as a future energy source. Vignesh, Maxwell and Sai’s design consisted of two halves each housing two astronauts; a creative way to separate the operational and habitable components of the vehicle.”

Aadil has a longstanding involvement with Galactic Challenge, a regional competition for younger pupils and a sister competition to the UK Space Design Competition (UKSDC). In his final year at QE, Aadil progressed from the UKSDC to the International Space Settlement Design Competition, hosted by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Aadil graduates from Imperial College in Physics this summer.

Other QE successes in the competition included:

  • Gold awards for two entries – Koustuv Bhowmick, of Year 8, and Krishn Bhowmick, of Year 7, for their VIXI design, and Vaibhav Gaddi, of Year 8, for his vehicle, which he named Caladenia Elegans (the elegant orchid spider)
  • Silver awards to two Year 7 teams and a Year 8 team – Azmeer Shahid, Shuban Singh, Shivam Trivedi and Anish Errapothu, for Dark Voyager (pictured top); Daksh Vinnakota, Ved Nair, Ojas Jha and Keon Robert for Spatium Rimor I, and Year 8’s Ishtarth Katageri, Sachit Kori, Anirudh Terdal and Abhay Halyal for ML Pioneer
  • Bronze awards for two entries – Pranav Haller, of Year 8, for his design, The Hermes, and Year 7’s Giuseppe Mangiavacchi, Trishan Chanda, Timi Banjo and Rayan Pesnani for Luna Rimor.
Shining examples! Competition winners focus on three women who inspired others in times of trouble

A QE competition inviting boys in lockdown to write essays or design posters about figures who helped others through previous times of adversity drew entries featuring a huge variety of inspirational men and women.

From Winston Churchill to Colonel Sanders (of KFC fame), and from civil rights activist Rosa Parks to the Prophet Muhammad, boys from the first three years at the School spanned the centuries and ranged across the world with their chosen topics.

And the subjects of the three winning entries – who were all women – equally had very different stories, with one being a world-famous scientist, one an Irish-born teacher who became an influential spokesperson promoting Indian national consciousness, and the third the heroine of an aeroplane hijacking.

The competition for Years 7-9 was run and judged by the School’s four Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors, Sharvash Jeyaharan, Beker Shah, Vebushan Sukumar and Ukendar Vadivel, all of Year 12.

“We were amazed by the number of high-quality responses from all years,” they said in a joint statement as the results were announced.

In launching the competition, which they entitled TALK, the ambassador team had stated: “The past few weeks have been filled with uncertainty, disappointment and complete confusion. It can be hard to find courage and resilience in this time, but humanity has always bounced back.” They invited boys to write an essay of no more than 1,000 words or design an A4 poster featuring “someone from history that has shown strength and determination in hard times, who inspires you today”.

Year 7 winner Trishan Chanda wrote about Margaret Elizabeth Noble, who was born in Dungannon but became a follower of the Indian spiritual leader, Vivekananda. She devoted her life to service in India, where she ran a school, helped the poor during times of natural disaster and became involved in working towards India’s political emancipation. Her health broken by her efforts, she died aged only 43 in 1911.  The ambassadors praised Trishan for “writing a compelling piece about someone not well-known”.

By contrast, Year 8 winner Chanul Athukoralage’s subject was one of the world’s best-known scientists, Marie Curie, who was the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize and who remains the only person to have won a Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields – Physics and Chemistry.

The judge’s praised Chanul’s “eye-catching” poster and described the Polish (and naturalised-French) pioneer of research into radioactivity, who died in 1934, as “an inspiration to the aspiring scientists of today”. In what Chanul described as the “greatest comeback science will ever see”, she overcame the devastating death of her scientist husband Pierre Curie in an accident in 1906 and went on to take the University of Paris chair that had been created for her husband and to win her second Nobel Prize.

Dhruv Chadha, the winning entrant from Year 9, related the story of Pan Am head purser, Neerja Bhanot, from India, who was shot and killed while saving passengers on her hijacked flight during a stopover in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1986. Earlier in the flight, she had hidden the passports of passengers on the flight so that the hijackers could not identify American passengers, whom they were targeting. When, after 17 hours, the hijackers opened fire and set off explosives, she opened one of the aircraft’s doors and started helping passengers escape, but was shot at point-blank range. “The story of her selflessness and humanity is moving – sacrificing her life for the 384 passengers of a hijacked plane,” the judges said.

The winners are being congratulated by their Heads of Year in their virtual assemblies. You can see their entries here: Trishan Chanda, 7U, Chanul Athukoralage, 8S and Dhruv Chadha, 9L.

Mansimar’s winning prescription for economic progress in an independent UK

Sixth-former Mansimar Singh has won a national essay competition with his plea for the UK Government to do more to make Britain economically stronger in a post-Brexit world.

Mansimar’s entry took the top prize in the first-ever essay competition for schools to be run by TEAMGlobal, an independent educational foundation.

Entrants had to write a maximum of 1,500 words on the question: ‘Following the 2019 election, Boris Johnson urged “let the healing begin”. What do you suggest could be done to bring this about?’

He was inspired to enter by his interest in politics: “More specifically, I was interested in researching what an independent Britain would be like for myself and other young people and Boris Johnson’s plan for Britain after Brexit.”

Head of History & Politics Helen MacGregor said: “We have been encouraging our pupils not only to continue their curricular studies through the lockdown, but also to maintain their academic interests beyond the curriculum. Mansimar’s essay is an excellent example of this, and his success is richly deserved.”

In his 1,463-word composition, he cited sources including the House of Commons Library, the Office for National Statistics and the Financial Times.

Through his research, he says he developed “a greater understanding about how each industry in the UK has been uniquely impacted by Brexit, and the various complexities involved in revitalising and preparing them for operation in an independent Britain”.

TEAMGlobal – The European Atlantic Movement – is a charity that aims to enable young people to act as global citizens, empowering them to consider world issues and to play their part in resolving problems and promoting solutions.

The competition was open to all Year 12 students. Mansimar’s £200 cash prize and a certificate are being sent to the School so they can be presented to him once the School reopens to more pupils. The prize also includes an invitation to a future TEAMGlobal Members’ Day, including tea at the House of Lords.

“My analysis of this research and my own opinions ultimately formulated my response to the essay,” Mansimar said. His main contentions were that:

  • “The Government must increase an independent UK’s attractiveness for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to minimise the short to medium-term impacts on the economy and, in the long term, prepare it to become less reliant upon the EU.”
  • This can be achieved by building upon the UK’s existing ‘knowledge economy’ by increasing the skills of young people in education through increased school funding and greater equality of opportunity in accessing alternatives to university, such as high-quality apprenticeships.
  • The “underlying socioeconomic factors behind the Brexit vote”, such as regional inequalities, need to be addressed by significantly investing in communities outside the typical investment hotspots, such as London.
  • This should, in turn, be achieved by delivering on the Prime Minister’s promise of a ‘transport revolution’ to help increase the mobility of labour, preventing it from concentrating within a few, small regions.
  • Existing jobs must be protected and further job creation encouraged by revitalising local industries, attracting greater investment in growing sectors and maintaining the strengths of well-established ones, such as the financial sector.

All of this, he concluded, would “act as an engine that will fuel future economic growth in an independent Britain, but, crucially, the benefits of future economic progress will be more evenly spread and will help previously struggling communities to thrive”.

Read Mansimar’s essay here.

Podcasts, Pepys and pandemics: The Queen’s Library spans the centuries

A new podcast series from The Queen’s Library starts with a look at the contemporary challenge of climate change, while Library staff have also put together a lavishly illustrated historical account of a Londoner facing a pandemic even worse than the present one.

Both the podcast and the account – about Samuel Pepys and the Great Plague of 1665 – are part of an extensive selection of content curated by Head of Library Services Surya Bowyer for boys to access during the pandemic lockdown.

The 27-minute first episode of the podcast series, entitled Roundness, looks at the issue of climate change, examining evidence from around the world and taking as its starting point President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. It features audio clips and music, as well as a commentary from Mr Bowyer.

The podcast, which is available on subscription from online providers including Apple Podcasts and Spotify, quotes experts from a range of disciplines, including investment bank Morgan Stanley’s chief executive, James Gorman, who recently told a congressional committee: “If we don’t have a planet, we’re not going to have a very good financial system.”

The podcast may also be accessed from the Library’s pages on eQE – the School’s portal for boys, parents, staff and other members of the Elizabethan community.

The Library’s extensive eQE section includes a Book of the Week, as well as a host of other recommended reading on the Lockdown Reading page, some of it recommended for particular age groups, some suitable for all.

“There are quick links to huge selections of free e-books and to free audiobooks. And there is our own Virtual Culture guide to virtual museums and galleries for lockdown and beyond,” says Mr Bowyer.

The Arabella magazine, a publication produced by pupils and featuring pupils’ own written and visual contributions, is hosted by the Library’s eQE section.

Mr Bowyer adds: “One coping strategy when we face a crisis like Covid-19 is to document our experiences in some way. More than 350 years ago, that was exactly what Samuel Pepys, a young civil servant living in London, did in his diary when the capital was hit by the Great Plague in 1665 – the worst epidemic in England since the Black Death of 1348. His reaction, and that of his fellow Londoners, is set out in our Pepys and the plague page.”

The page features 12 illustrations, most of them contemporaneous drawings, as well as extracts from Pepy’s diary detailing what he saw and heard – “so many poor sick people in the streets full of sores” – and the gradual recovery over many months until, in February 1666, London was deemed safe enough for King Charles II and his court to return.

Saving the planet from climate change: competition winners announced

The twin importance of message and method in fighting climate change was brought to the fore in the two winning entries in the Geography department’s Earth Day competitions.

The competitions were held to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

With this year’s Earth Day theme being Climate Action, the winner of the writing competition emphasised the importance of using the right people to convey environmental messages, while the victor in the parallel photography competition emphasised the positive impact that even small steps could have.

Head of Geography Emily Parry said: “Well done to all of the boys who entered the competitions. It was impressive to see the boys engage with the enormous challenge of climate change and heartening to see their appreciation of the wonder of our planet and passion for it to be protected.”

The first task was to write in 500 words or less an answer in response to the question: How can we save our planet from climate change? The second was for boys to submit a photograph they had taken illustrating the impact, for good or ill, of humans on ecosystems, accompanied by a 100-word explanation.

Ananth Iyer, of Year 8, took the prize for the photography competition with his striking image of a bird feeder in his back garden. He explained his choice of subject: “It celebrates the positive impact that humans can have on our environment. It can provide food for birds and all sorts of other animals when they are finding it tough. Small things like these can have a huge impact.”

Congratulating Ananth, Miss Parry said: “We appreciated the simplicity of Ananth’s photograph and how it showed that it is possible for anyone to take a small action which can have a positive impact upon ecosystems.”

First prize for the writing competition went to Rahul Doshi, of Year 10, who submitted an argument that insufficient numbers of people are aware of the threat of climate change.

“Rahul creatively answered the question How can we save our planet from climate change? by recognising that it is first necessary for everyone to accept that climate change is actually a threat! He draws attention to the importance of having messengers, such as David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, to effectively communicate climate science to people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Miss Parry.

Rahul proposed the use of respected messengers to increase recognition. He wrote: “With over 46% of UK citizens believing that the threat is overstated and 10% completely denying that humans are to blame for climate change, it is clear that not enough people currently are aware of the threat climate change poses to our planet. There needs to be a big push to get messengers – people who we all relate to – to get this message across. If we do not, this planet faces a grave future.”

The competitions were launched on Earth Day on 22 April through eQE and were accompanied by tips and links to websites with suggestions for background reading material. These ranged from National Geographic’s suggestions for lightening our ecological load to an Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) article about how to build a bug house.

Génial! Creativity to the fore as linguists show their mettle

Pearce took the honours in two separate competitions run by the Languages department to encourage boys to flex their linguistic muscles and show off their creativity during the lockdown.

For both contests, boys had to show their mastery of written French or German, while a challenge set by Languages teacher Rosie Hall additionally gave Year 10 pupils the opportunity to display visual ability alongside their verbal skill.

Head of Languages Nora Schlatte said: “We have been impressed both by the number of boys choosing to take part in the competitions and by the quality of their contributions. My congratulations go to all the winners.”

For a competition open to boys throughout Key Stage 3, pupils had to choose a German or French song and write a paragraph about why they liked it.

Tristan Chanda was the Year 7 winner. In his piece on Parle à ta tête, the 2019 hit by French singer-songwriter Indila, he wrote: “Ça me donne envie de danser!” – it makes me want to dance. He explained that he likes pop music “parce que c’est branché et génial” – because it’s trendy and great!

Saim Khan won the Year 8 prize with a paragraph about Alain le Lait’s song, J’aime les fruits, in which he explained that he also liked the singer’s other songs: “Elles sont aussi très intéressantes et vraiment cool!” – they are very interesting, too, and really cool!”

Darren Lee, the Year 9 winner, took a close look at the life of rapper Georgio, observing that while many have lost hope because of the Covid-19 virus, his song L’Espoir Meurt en Dernier strikes a note of hope that is essential at the present time.

House points were awarded, with Pearce taking first place, followed by Broughton and then Underne.

Languages teacher Rebecca Grundy also ran a House competition for Years 10 and 11, for which they were required simply to submit a piece of creative writing in French or German. “There was great variety in the entries, with boys submitting poems, articles and adverts,” she said.

First prize went to Year 10’s Olly Salter, for his poem, Le Café, about a chance encounter in a café.

Other highly commended entries included:

  • Year 11 Shivas Patel’s illustrated biography of Beethoven
  • A piece by Om Chakrapani, of Year 10, about Ferdinand Porsche, engineer and founder of the eponymous car company
  • A review of the 1945 classic film, Les Enfants du Paradis, by Aadarsh Khimasia, of Year 11
  • A brochure-style paeon of praise for the city of Lyon penned by Siddhant Kansal, of Year 11, who fell in love with the city when he went there on an exchange
  • Sushant Despande’s poem, Mein Handy. Sushant is in Year 10.

Pearce again took first prize in this competition; Leicester were second and Broughton third.
Miss Hall praised the “great work” done by her set 2 Year 10 class based on Jean de la Fontaine’s fable Le rat de ville et de champs.

The boys watched some French cartoon clips and then were asked to create a comic strip or storyboard, re-imagining the story and using the vocabulary they learned to explain relative advantages and disadvantages of living in the town and the countryside.

Mukund Soni produced a hand-drawn strip, while Kirtinandan Koramutla, Arya Bhatt and Danny Adey all showed distinctive visual approaches in creating their storyboards with computers.

“I’ve been really impressed with their creativity and use of language,” Miss Hall added.