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On top of the world: School Captain’s “gentle yet captivating” feature wins him top national Science prize

School Captain Ivin Jose’s imaginative short story, looking at climate change through the eyes of an elderly, world-travelling balloonist, has won him the top prize in the national Science Challenge Competition 2020.

Ivin’s 1,200-word feature took both the top prize in its category and the Overall Schools Winner Award, judged by Lord Robert Winston, in the annual Royal College Science Union (RSCU) competition. The RCSU is the student union for students at Imperial College London from the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

Feedback from the competition markers lauded Ivin’s “unique” style in a “gentle yet captivating” essay. One marker wrote: “The message is delivered subtly, but without detracting from its importance.” A second marker told Ivin: “It is clear that you are very talented at scientific writing, which is generally a very tricky thing to do!”

Ivin, of Year 12, was shortlisted as one of the three finalists for his category and was invited to the awards ceremony in the Royal Society of Chemistry Library.

Unfortunately, the event coincided with QE’s Senior Awards Ceremony, at which Ivin not only won several prizes, but was also scheduled to deliver a vote of thanks as School Captain. His father therefore attended the competition ceremony in his stead, where scientist, doctor and TV presenter Professor Lord Winston presented the prizes. Lord Winston has been the ambassador for the Science Challenge for 12 years.

Ivin said: “I was delighted and surprised to learn that I had won the awards for both the feature category and the Overall Schools Winner Award.” He won £500, with the prize package also including a visit to the House of Lords.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “My congratulations go to Ivin on this exceptional achievement. He is an exemplary pupil, achieving high academic standards and contributing fully to extra-curricular activities, while showing great dedication to serving QE in his role as School Captain.”

Ivin was alerted to the competition by Academic Enrichment Tutor and Physics teacher Gillian Deakin. There were four categories: video, essay, feature and freestyle. Ivin chose the feature category, for which entrants had to cover “what good climate means to different people, and what this means for how we respond to climate change”.

“I chose to do the feature article question, as the blend of creativity and scientific fact appealed to me.”

The guest judge for this category was Mun Keat Looi, a science writer, who was awarded the silver Rising Star Award at the 2015 British Media Awards. He is the author of two books, Big Questions in Science: The quest to solve the great unknowns and the Geek Guide to Life.

Ivin said: “I wrote my feature article titled Memories of an Old World Traveller. I decided that it would be interesting to explore the feature article question from the perspective of an older narrator in order to explore how much the earth’s climate has changed over time, as well as my desire to motivate and inspire readers to action.”

The article tells the story of a 92-year-old hot air balloonist reflecting on happy memories of travelling the world and “witnessing the stunning peaks of the Himalayas, tasting the spices of Asia and beholding the beauty of the Alaskan Northern Lights”.

One of the marker’s commented on this aspect of the feature: “It is very interesting to introduce so many different cultures’ approaches to climate science, and you have done this very well.”

Realising in his old age that the climate is rapidly changing, the traveller-narrator gets out his balloon for one final journey to investigate humanity’s response to the crisis. The essay finishes with the narrator’s thoughts on the comprehensive measures that will be necessary to resolve the problem of global warming.

• Read Ivin’s winning entry, Memories Of An Old World Traveller.

Quiz brings out ruthless, competitive streak…and that’s just the teachers

Underne emerged as victors in the close-fought inter-House World Book Day quiz, defeating the boys from Stapylton on a tie-break question.

And the competition was equally ferocious among the staff teams, with some (not entirely serious) dark mutterings being heard from teachers when their own result was announced!

Simi Bloom, of Year 7, Hamza Mohamed, of Year 8, along with Year 9’s Aryan Patel and Year 10’s Amin Mohamed, formed the winning team, with Hamza first off the mark for the all-important tie-break question: Who was the poet Laureate before Simon Armitage? (Answer: Carol Ann Duffy).

The questions covered a gamut of authors from Charles Dickens to Ruta Sepetys, and from Chaucer to J K Rowling, with a special Shakespeare round included for good measure.

The House teams were joined by five staff teams and one Sixth Form team in the event held in the Main School Hall, which was organised by English teacher Panayiota Menelaou.

QE’s Head of Library Services, Surya Bowyer, paid tribute to her work and reflected on the event as a whole: “What struck me was how universal the event was. There were boys from Years 7 through to 11 in the House teams, along with teams comprising sixth-formers, teachers and non-teaching staff. It was brilliant to see how literature can be such an effective unifier. The universality of the event was reflected also in Ms Menelaou’s careful curation of the questions, which produced a real mix of niche versus populist, and ensured that every participant knew at least one answer.”

When the winning staff team of Dr Corinna Illingworth, Mr Robert Hyland, Ms Audrey Poppy and Mr Jonathan Brooke was announced, there were rumblings from other competitors. Helen MacGregor, Head of History, said: “The History department was robbed of victory! We are already in training for next year…” while Mr Bowyer added: “With Mr Hyland’s team claiming victory, there is some chatter among the staff body that perhaps the contest was fixed….” Ms Menelaou countered she had distributed the English department staff and two librarians as evenly and fairly as possible among the staff teams!

Below is a selection of the questions and answers:

  1. Which two cities provide the setting for Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities?
  2. Which book by Ruta Sepetys won the 2017 Carnegie book award?
  3. How many Canterbury Tales were written by Chaucer?
  4. Who split his soul into horcruxes?
  5. Which Shakespearean play features the characters of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia?
  6. Which two Shakespeare plays are translated into Klingon?

Answers

  1. London and Paris
  2. Salt to the Sea
  3.  24
  4. Voldemort
  5. King Lear
  6. Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing
Celebrating diligence, flair and true scholarship in all its diversity

More than 60 boys received prizes for commitment and excellence across a wide field of endeavours at the 2020 Senior Awards Ceremony.

Guest speaker Professor Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Nottingham, handed awards to boys from Years 10, 11 and 12.

In a break from recent tradition, prizes were not awarded to pupils in their final year at the School. A new valediction ceremony has been instituted for Year 13 in June instead, to take place immediately following their A-level examinations.

Explaining this “conscious uncoupling” in his speech, Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This provides us with more opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the current Year 12 tonight, and a timelier juncture at which to say goodbye to those boys and their families who have reached the end of their seven years at the School.”

Mr Enright told the prize-winners from Years 10–12 that they should be proud not just of their performance, but also of their attitude and of their contribution to School life. “You have stood out for the levels of commitment and excellence that you have displayed over the last year – in your academic studies, the performing arts, in the sporting arena and in your service to others in this community. Your hard work and application have seen you make yourselves role models for your peers and for those younger boys in the School who look up to you.”

He also paid tribute to the staff, observing that their own dedication, attention and care had enabled the boys to fulfil and further extend their great potential. This potential may lead boys down many different paths, noting the different expressions of scholarship as witnessed among Old Elizabethans.

He told the boys in the audience: “I am conscious that we need to make sure that we celebrate the diverse involvements and talents of pupils throughout the School; to encourage you to follow your interests and passions, to try out new enrichment activities, and to support you to develop and communicate those new ideas and new solutions that are the evidence of the free-thinking scholarship that we hope to inculcate.”

Scholarship could seem like a “heritage brand”, with its associations with old professors, dusty books and ancient libraries. While there was nothing wrong with any of those things, it was important to recognise that scholarship comes in many different forms, he said, spanning the sciences as well as the arts, featuring creativity and the emotional, as well as the empirical.

Mr Enright spoke of the need for young people to be able to communicate their views “away from the cauldron of social media”, to encourage independence of thought. “We need safe spaces, less to protect young people from ideas, but to allow them to try out bold new ones – to offer those new insights and new solutions.”

He concluded by reassuring the boys present that they were on track: “The awards you are about to collect are evidence of this. We want to ensure that you are best equipped to adapt to the modern, changing world and, perhaps, to help adapt it for the better; to help you to be open-minded, as we need to be, to the full diversity of options available to you, and to reflect and to celebrate the different expressions of scholarship and achievement as we now find them.”

Guest speaker Professor West was born and raised in a small town in south-west Virginia, where her father was a factory-floor supervisor and mother a high school teacher. She was the first in her family to attend university, thus mirroring the experience of many Old Elizabethans and the aspirations of many current pupils.

She obtained her BA degree in Art History and English at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and her PhD in Art History at St. Andrews.

Following her PhD, Professor West worked as an editor for the Grove Dictionary of Art, before taking up her first academic post at the University of Leicester. In 1996, she moved to the University of Birmingham as Head of the History of Art Department, then becoming Head of the School of Historical Studies, and Acting Head of the College of Arts and Law.

In 2008, Professor West was seconded to be Director of Research at the Arts and Humanities Research Council. She was appointed Head of the Humanities Division at Oxford in 2011, where she oversaw the launch of the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities. In 2015, she became Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield, before taking up her current post at Nottingham in 2017.

Professor West began her Senior Awards speech by quipping that she had almost, but not quite, matched QE’s School colours with her bright blue robe – noting that it was her St Andrews’ doctoral robe. She described her own journey from a community where most people worked in a factory or on tobacco farm, to her current role. “I realised that education could lift me out of a life of limited opportunity,” she said. She said her own parents had been very supportive and she stressed the importance of parents and families encouraging their children’s aspirations.

She advised boys to follow their passions: “This will set you up well! Do this and things will work out… Take me as an example. History of Art is supposed to render you unemployable, but I have had a great career!”

She adjured boys never to underestimate the value of hard work and also to consider seriously any chance to study abroad. “It’s a really great opportunity and experience. I came to St Andrews for a year as an undergraduate, returned to do my PhD and then never left the UK!”

She spoke of some of the challenges in the world today, such as climate change, AI and its potential disruption to jobs, political extremism and social media, but declared herself very hopeful that the young generation’s values of equality, diversity and service would help society address those issues.

Among the guests were the Deputy Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet, Councillor Lachhya Gurung, the Deputy Mayoress, Mrs Shova Gurung, and the Representative Deputy Lieutenant of the London Borough of Barnet, Mr Martin Russell, as well as Governors.

The evening’s proceedings were punctuated by musical interludes, which included the March from Handel’s Scipione, as well as a song, Fauré’s Au Bord de l’Eau, sung by Year 12’s George Raynor.

“The whole event was very enjoyable,” said Mr Enright afterwards. “The music was excellent – it is rare that one of the musical interludes is a vocalist, but George did very well.”

Giving the vote of thanks, School Captain Ivin Jose said: “As we sit here today, it is important for us to question how we can best contribute to our society. How can we fulfil our great potential? And how can we strive to be honest, selfless and compassionate human beings?” He asked the boys to consider: “How do we move from being gifted amateurs to active participants and game-changers?” He suggested that what they must do is to try.

“Our society is not perfect, it has its fair share of flaws and problems but, maybe, all it needs is a little inspiration, a little spark of creativity from those brave enough to try. Why can’t that be us?”

Learning through thrilling ups and downs!

From the history of powered flight to the physics of theme park rides, Year 9 pupils covered a lot of ground on their four-day Science trip to Paris.

Travelling by coach and ferry, the 43-strong group not only literally covered many miles, but also made great strides in their learning as they took in real-life examples of scientific principles in action.

Physics teacher and Academic Enrichment Tutor Gillian Deakin said: “The tightly packed programme had been planned to, on the one hand, showcase some of the interesting applications of Science from the classroom while, on the other, providing discussion points for future lessons.”

The first stopping-off point for the group was the National Air and Space Museum of France, at Paris’s historic Le Bourget, still a working airport for private flights. With nearly 20,000 exhibits, the museum features two Concordes among its 150 aeroplanes. The boys sampled the flight simulator and learned about the development of flight, from air balloons to the modern day.

Pupil Aarush Verma particularly enjoyed this visit: “I attend air cadets outside of school, so it was nice to see a variety of different aircraft, from the first planes to modern passenger planes, such as the A380.”

The rockets there were a highlight for his fellow pupil, Vignesh Rajiv:“I was very impressed by the scale and size of them.”

Later, at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, the biggest science museum in Europe, the group were able to see exhibitions on themes from genetics to energy. “I found the robotics section especially fascinating as visitors could control the robots,” said Aarush. “It linked up really nicely with my personal interests at School, where I’m active with VEX Robotics.”

Another highlight of the trip was a night tour of Montparnasse. “We watched the illumination of the Eiffel Tower at 8pm and got amazing views of Paris,” said Miss Deakin.

The following day the group headed off to Disneyland Paris where they sampled various attractions, from Hyperspace Mountain (a Star Wars-themed ride), to It’s a Small World, a water-based boat ride with audio-animatronic dolls.

“The boys have been studying energy transfers in Science, and the rides have furnished knowledge which they will now have the opportunity to discuss in the classroom,” said Miss Deakin.

“We also got to watch the parade, which included several childhood favourites, and there were some exciting pyrotechnics, which showcased yet more interesting applications of Science.”

The final day included a quick stopover at the Cité Europe shopping centre for lunch and souvenirs. Although the ferry home was delayed by over an hour and a half because of poor weather, a free meal provided the boys with compensation for the hold-up.

Who ate all the tarts? QE boys know the answer

The number of QE pupils receiving top awards in the UKMT Intermediate Maths Challenge has increased again this year, with one boy achieving a perfect score.

The IMC competition, run by the UK Mathematics Trust, is for pupils in Years 9 to 11; 317 boys from QE took part – 174 were awarded gold certificates (up from 172 last year), while 103 were awarded silver (compared to 91 last year), with a further 31 receiving bronze.

Ansh Jassra from Year 10 was awarded Best in School, scoring a maximum-possible 135 points.

With only 500 places available nationally across all schools for the highest scorers for the Intermediate Olympiad, Ansh and 22 other QE boys qualified. A further 174 QE pupils secured entry into the Intermediate Kangaroo, the competition’s other follow-on round.

Ansh said: “With its many challenging yet intriguing maths problems, sitting the IMC was fun, testing and overall a great experience. I am looking forward to the Olympiad!” said Ansh.

Assistant Head of Mathematics Wendy Fung said: “We are delighted with how well the boys have done and extremely pleased with the continued increase in the proportion of boys reaching the follow-on rounds. As the recently introduced 9-1 GCSE has a strong focus on problem-solving, success in the IMC will stand the boys in good stead for their examinations.”

Maxwell Johnson, who was named Best in Year 9 with a score of 130, said: “I hope that I will be able to improve on my score in the [Junior] Olympiad from last year. It will be challenging, but I’m sure I will enjoy it.”

Shimaq Sakeel Mohamed, who also scored 130 and was named Best in Year 11, said: “I am proud to be part of a School where I can achieve great things and the IMC is a great way to do this.”

Sample question:
The Knave of Hearts stole some tarts. He ate half of them, and half a tart more. The Knave of Diamonds ate half of what was left, and half a tart more. Then the Knave of Clubs ate half of what remained, and half a tart more. This left just one tart for the Knave of Spades.

How many tarts did the Knave of Hearts steal? A. 63  B. 31  C. 19  D. 17  E. 15

Solution:
Suppose that at a particular stage there are m tarts available for a Knave to eat and that there are n left after he has finished eating. Then n = m − ( ½ m+ ½ ) = ½ m – ½ . Therefore, m = 2n +1. As the Knave of Spades received one tart, then the number of tarts which the Knave of Clubs was given was 2×1+1 = 3. Similarly, the number of tarts which the Knave of Diamonds was given was 2×3+1 = 7. Finally, the number of tarts which the Knave of Hearts stole was 2×7+1. So the correct answer is: E. 15.

Debating the pros and cons of censorship – the noes have it!

The Year 8 Inter-House Debating Final was won by the finest of margins, following an evenly matched contest between Stapylton and Leicester.

After fluent and compelling debate from both sides, the Leicester team, opposing the motion, This house believes that censorship has no place in a democracy, prevailed by just a single point.

Head of English Robert Hyland, who organised the event, said: “At QE, we are fully persuaded of the importance of nurturing effective oracy and skills in public speaking and debating among our pupils. All the boys who took part in this final are therefore to be congratulated, as they presented an excellent, well-argued debate in the best QE tradition of closely competed inter-house competitions.”

Zaki Mustafa, the first main speaker for Stapylton, presented the proposition in his allocated five minutes. He argued that freedom of speech is a pillar of democracy and a key human right, adding: “Democracy means that we decide how our country is run – the government is there to implement our decisions, not to make them.”

He also referenced the Watergate scandal, suggesting that the suppression of information resulted in “disastrous consequences” leading to US President Nixon’s resignation. He also pointed out that in Turkey, censorship has led to the arrest of journalists which, in turn, has affected information flow to the public.

Ady Tiwari, who recorded the highest individual score on the day, presented a robust argument for the opposition in his five minutes: “Not all speech is equal,” he said. “Censorship reduces the impact of hate speech. Hate speech historically has led to oppression such as slavery and the denial of the vote to women.” He pointed out that live broadcasts by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan are illegal – clearly a case where censorship “stops hate and promotes equality and justice”, he said.

He also suggested that, for reasons of national security, government information needs to be kept secret. He argued that removing censorship would help terrorists and other criminals, such as identity thieves.

Ady added that censorship is needed in many key areas of society, including the internet, television, film and the media, and that, without censorship, children could search online for information about pornography and buying drugs. Democracy necessarily “includes censorship and we should use it to make the world a better place”, Ady concluded.

Among the topics covered by Stapylton’s second main speaker, Koustuv Bhowmick, were parental controls: these were an effective way of controlling children’s internet use, yet they could be classified as restriction, rather than censorship. He also looked at the deleterious effects of censorship in regimes such as North Korea and China, arguing that, in the latter case, it was abuse of censorship that had led to the coronavirus scandal.

The opposition’s second main speaker, Adi Kaneshanatha, returned to the dangers of hate speech, stating that “hate crime causes violence” and warning that it increases the social stigma of the groups discriminated against, which, in turn, affects mental health. He looked at the issue of fake news, arguing that censorship will help stop it, and urged speakers to trust the Government’s judgement in ensuring that its citizens are not exposed to inappropriate material.

Three speakers from each side raised points or questions from the floor. For Stapylton, Joel Swedensky, Harrshiv Vyas and Akshat Bajaj touched on the importance of educating people with negative or hateful views rather than just silencing them. Leicester’s floor speakers, opposing the motion, were Abhay Halyal, Nikhil Mark and Pranav Haller, who cited as an example of the serious dangers of an absence of censorship the fact that terrorists can learn to make bombs online.

The event was adjudicated by Dharrshan Viramuthu, of Year 12, who is a member of QE’s Cambridge Union Schools Debating Competition team. He congratulated all the speakers and also dispensed some advice, suggesting inter alia that they try to minimise reliance on scripts.

He awarded opponents Leicester 59 points out of a possible 70, thus just pipping proposers Stapylton, who picked up 58 points. An indicative vote from the floor was fairly evenly split, but again just favoured the opposition.

Rising to the challenge: imagining a better future against the clock

From Harry Potter and major religions to global technology companies, QE pupil Yash Makwana covered them all in a speech – and in less than three minutes, too!

Selected from a strong field of Year 10 peers, Yash represented the School at the regional final of Jack Petchey’s Speak Out Challenge – the world’s largest speaking competition for young people.

The brief was to deliver a speech of between 90 seconds and three minutes on a topic of his choice – the only stipulations were that it had to be something he was passionate about and it had to contain a positive message.

Yash chose ‘Imagination’ and how it can be used to advantage to create a more positive future. He said: “Whilst the School does encourage the use of imagination, there is a danger it can be limited by mark schemes and exam assessments.”

Working at QE towards his Higher Project Qualification – a stand-alone qualification involving individual study of a particular topic – had helped him obviate this risk, he said. “It has given me the freedom to research systems of government and why they work or don’t work. In particular, I have been able to imagine a ‘perfect’ government and understand to what extent it could be implemented and what its limitations might be in practice.”

Yash had not been involved in public-speaking before this competition and chose to deliver his talk without notes, retaining some talking points in his mind, so that his delivery would flow.

Oliver Gorman, an Extra-curricular Enrichment Tutor at QE, said: “Although he didn’t win, Yash certainly deserves plaudits for his speech and the confidence he showed in performing in front of a large crowd. He spoke brilliantly and represented himself and the School fantastically.”

Yash added: “I really enjoyed the competition. Some of the speeches were quite eye-opening.”

He touched on the importance of imagination in a number of realms including the impact fiction had on his childhood, particularly the Harry Potter series, and the benefits of escapism. He talked about the importance of imagination in the innovations of tech entrepreneurs and at global giants such as Tesla, Microsoft and Google. He also talked about major world religions: “Imagination in interpreting and retelling the stories has helped make them as big as they are,” he suggested.

He posed a question to his audience: ‘What can you do with your imagination?’. He hoped that this ‘take-away’ would encourage people to look at things in a new light, to see how fundamental imagination is in all their lives.

“The experience has really boosted my confidence in public-speaking, and I hope to do more of it in the future,” he said.

The event was organised by The Speakers’ Trust, sponsored by The Jack Petchey Foundation. The Foundation itself was set up by London entrepreneur Sir Jack Petchey specifically to inspire and motivate young people and give them a voice. Councillor Lachhya Gurung, Deputy Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet (pictured) was among those who attended.

Hot-seating and sword-fighting as a troupe calls

Boys gained an invaluable fresh insight into their GCSE set English texts when a visiting theatre company staged two plays, along with innovative interactive workshops.

The Say Two Productions company performed Romeo and Juliet – a set text for Year 11 pupils – and J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, which Year 10 are currently studying.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “The majority of time in class has been spent looking closely at the linguistic and thematic features of the texts in a purely literary context. It is really important for the boys to be able to appreciate how the literary foundation of the classroom translates into the dramatic sphere of performance if they are to maximize their understanding of the texts.”

In addition to performing the plays, the accompanying workshop programme involved hot-seating – where a character in a play is questioned about his or her background, behaviour and motivation.

“Ordinarily in a performance, the audience and actors are kept separate. On this occasion the workshops led by Say Two were innovative in the way the company really encouraged students to engage in the process of understanding how the page translated to the stage, and the theatrical purpose of Priestley’s and Shakespeare’s writing,” Mr Hyland added.

Jeshvin Jesudas, of Year 10, praised the interactive way in which An Inspector Calls was shown and the hot-seating, which, he said, “helped us to understand how the characters actually felt and gave us a greater and wider understanding of the play”.

The boys were also encouraged to speak out the dialogue from various scenes and to consider the relationship between the characters and how the characters perceived themselves.

For Romeo and Juliet, an interactive staging in costume of the Capulet Ball (Act 1, Scene 5) and of the sword fight between Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt (Act 3, Scene 1) helped show Romeo’s progression through the text, proving popular with the boys.

Sajeev Karunakaran, of Year 11, said: “It was a very enjoyable performance that expanded my knowledge of the play. I enjoyed the open discussion on the key themes of the play, and the best parts were the interactive activities like the sword-fighting.”

The staging of both plays sought to engender greater insight into the key themes. “The aim was to aid students in their understanding of the set texts as dramatic texts, in addition to simply being academic texts to be studied as literature. Students can hugely benefit in their understanding of the plays if they understand the stagecraft and can anticipate the audience reaction,” added Mr Hyland.

Afterwards, several of the boys gave their views on Say Two’s visit:

  • Jai Patel, one of the Year 10 pupils who participated in the workshop for An Inspector Calls: “It was a very detailed insight into the actions and morals of the characters, showing text character development as the play progresses.”
  • Umer Saad Rahman, of Year 10: “It clearly showed the development of the characters and helped to improve my understanding. It was very interesting and interactive.”
  • Chakshu Chopra, of Year 10: “The performance was extremely engaging, and it portrayed many themes that we learned in class. Watching the performance helped me understand more and really brought the ideas and theories we learned to life.”
  • Dylan Domb, of Year 10, enjoyed seeing the twists and turns of the narrative happening right in front of him.
  • Jao-Yong Tsai, of Year 10, felt the production helped to show the recurring themes more clearly and to illustrate the deep ironies and contradicting views in the play.
  • Ansh Jassra, of Year 10: “I was able to achieve a greater understanding of the interactions between the characters, which, in turn, aided deeper analysis of the stage directions.”
  • Daniel Rodrigues, of Year 11, thought that the actors helped the audience further understand the plot and he enjoyed a very “immersive experience”.
  • Athiyan Chandramohan, of Year 11, felt the occasion was informative, helping him understand the themes of the play much better.
Leading lights of the charging brigade

Two QE boys are among the prizewinners in a national competition aimed at finding better designs for electric vehicle charging points.

Year 8’s Tharsan Nimalan won a prize in the seven–14 category, while Ashwin Sridhar, of Year 10, achieved success in the 14-–19 age group in the Eco-Innovators Competition run by the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

Their success came as the Government announced that a ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars in the UK would be brought forward from 2040 to 2035 at the latest. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement as the country plans to host the annual United Nations climate change summit, COP 26, which is being held in Glasgow in the autumn.

The brief for the competition was to create a design for on-street electric vehicle (EV) charging points that were innovative, iconic and beautiful. At QE, entries were handled jointly by the Geography and Technology departments.

Geography teacher Nilisha Shah said: “I congratulate Tharsan and Ashwin on their success. As the Government’s announcement shows, universal use of electric vehicles is an idea whose time has clearly come, yet there is still much work to be done in making our cities ready. Innovative, creative thinking such as Tharsan’s and Ashwin’s is likely to prove essential if the UK is to get the infrastructure right.”

Tharsan went through a number of design ideas and drafts before settling on his submitted design, which was based upon a large tree. The trunk had a spiral staircase which users could walk up to reach lounge-style leisure facilities – perhaps a restaurant – at the top of the “tree”.

The intention behind this, he explained, was to help EV users pass the time whilst their vehicle charged and even make the charging point a desirable destination – thus overcoming the perceived drawback of electric vehicles that users would have nothing to do while re-charging. Tharsan wanted, in fact to make non-electric car users “jealous of the experience they could be having”.

His design involved the use of lightweight, more sustainable and recyclable metals and other materials, with green planting on the roof. Vehicles would be parked around the base for charging, with cables pulled down from the trunk and plugged in wherever the connection point is on a vehicle.

Ashwin designed a charging station with a “contemporary aesthetic” and a “self-maintaining garden to absorb pollution”. He envisaged a vertical garden some 3 metres high which would collect rainwater and self-irrigate, featuring green plants and mosses that are good at capturing carbon.

Ashwin envisaged targeting high-pollution areas in terms of locations for his charging station, which would also be designed to provide easy access.

Even before learning about the competition, Ashwin had already been thinking about charging point designs, having seen existing ones around London and thought that they could be made better. “They should be more than charging points,” he said, pointing out that ones created according to his designs would not only help “green” the urban landscape, but could usefully act as a source of information, for tourists, for example. Since so many charging points were going to be needed, it was important to get more functionality out of the space.

Skills, thrills and spills as QE hosts its first-ever senior robotics tournament

QE attracted a high-class field of some of the best and brightest robotics enthusiasts from London schools when it hosted its VEX EDR senior tournament.

Eight awards were on offer – the highest at any school-based regional competition this year – and all 20 teams were keen to pick up some silverware.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Robotics is a hugely popular extra-curricular activity at QE, with our boys enjoying national and international competition successes. We are therefore pleased to be able to give something back to school robotics by hosting tournaments here.”

Participants in the QE North Regional competition included the reigning national champions, St Olave’s Grammar School from Orpington, as well as Greig City Academy in Hornsey and The John Warner School in Hoddesdon.

QE entered four teams: HYBRID, comprising Year 12 pupils, and SYNAPSE, ECLIPSE and Technogear, whose team members are all in Year 10 and were thus the youngest competitors in this age group.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said “Following on from the tremendous success of the IQ Regional event for junior teams which we hosted at the end of last term, there was excitement and anticipation aplenty in the Shearly Hall as the senior event got underway. Our teams were in confident mood and eager to prove their mettle on home ground.

“There was high drama from the very beginning when QE’s SYNAPSE team, which had been confident of putting in a strong performance, faced a setback when their robot failed the routine inspection by the very narrowest of margins. The team suddenly faced a major undertaking – rebuild the ‘bot’ whilst also trying to practise and prepare for the competition. Their gallant efforts meant that a newly constructed, but, as yet, untested, robot was ready in time for qualification, but it put them under a great deal of pressure,” said Mr Noonan.

It was an intensive day of preparation and competition. All the teams were extremely busy both with practising and with forging relationships with teams from other schools with a view to forming alliances at a later stage in the event. They also had to contend with the four circulating judges, who interviewed the participants for the Design, Excellence, Think, Judges’ and Build awards.

Toby Reisch, Systems Engineering Manager at Cummins Inc and the Design/Excellence Judge said: ““I was enormously impressed with the quality of the work from all of the teams as well as the clear dedication to the task. The use and understanding of many industry-standard processes was great to see coupled with extensive innovation and lateral thinking.”

And Mark Jones, also a Design/Excellence judge said “The standard of the design and build was very good, especially with those teams that are new to the VEX and VRC competitions. The teams were knowledgeable about their robots and the processes that they had been through.”

When the competition began in earnest, QE’s team HYBRID had some challenging initial games, achieving some tight wins. In their second qualification, match they signalled their intent, as well as their capabilities as an “offensive juggernaut”, in the Tower Takeover game, scoring an impressive 76 points, Mr Noonan reported. This put them on the radar of other strong teams, and despite narrow losses in two of their eight games, they remained a favourite to take a high-ranking position in their alliance selection later in the day.

For team SYNAPSE, the scale of the challenge of rebuilding and practising simultaneously proved too much, as they succumbed to more losses than wins. The School’s other two Year 10 teams performed valiantly; Technogear finished in eigth position in a highly competitive field, and ECLIPSE finished 13th.

The alliance selection was hotly anticipated, with all 20 teams having the opportunity to compete. Team Technogear profited from their eighth-ranked position to select their QE classmates, ECLIPSE, while Team SYNAPSE paired up with a team from Westminster, aiming to upset the odds in a preliminary quarter-final. As expected, team HYBRID was selected by the number one-ranked team, Control Freaks from The John Warner School (JWS). They went on to form what would prove to be an unbeatable alliance.

Drama unfolded throughout the elimination rounds, as lower ranked teams, ties and close calls for referees added great atmosphere and excitement to the occasion. As the semi-finals drew to a close, the formidable QE/JWS alliance had overcome all of their opponents with ease, winning all their eliminators by an average score of 44 points.

Team SYNAPSE’s alliance unfortunately could not overcome their first obstacle, losing out in a closely fought tie. However, it was the surprise package of the day – the all-QE alliance of the Year 10 teams, who reached the decider – narrowly beating an all-JWS alliance in the quarters, and a JWS/Olave’s alliance in the semis.

In the final round, the action started in an unexpected way, when the number one-ranked team changed their autonomous routine. This tactic proved crucial, as the scramble for cubes ended in a flurry of scoring, de-scoring and stacking of cubes in protected zones. Ultimately, the highly offensive tactics of the higher ranked alliance prevailed, with QE-JWS winning out with a score line of 65-20. The audience recognised the efforts of the teams in reaching the pinnacle of the competition, as did the judging panels.

Not for the first time this year, QE had both reigned victorious and lost the final in the same action! However, the audience recognised the efforts of the teams in reaching the pinnacle of the competition, as did the judging panels. Team Technogear were awarded the Design Award for the second time in four days, but the majority of the spoils went to Hybrid – winning the Teamwork, Skills and Excellence Awards. With only one competition left before the signature and National Championships, this event proved to be an invaluable exercise in building skills and experience for these teams at the highest stage.

“I have to thank my colleagues Sean Kelly, Shane Maheady, Gillian Deakin, Jonathan Leigh, Lydia Jowsey-Alexander and Liberty Kimber for their contribution in setting up and helping to run the event,” concluded Mr Noonan.


The competition came just days after QE’s teams had pitted their wits against some of the finest VEX EDR Teams in the country at the GCA Regional event. “The same teams took part against high-quality opposition from the powerhouses of south east schools robotics,” said Mr Noonan. After the early bouts, Queen Elizabeth’s teams were placed highest, with SYNAPSE ranked first and ECLIPSE ranked second. Team Technogear ranked right at the bottom at 15th. Year 10’s Heemy Kalam from team SYNAPSE selected the experienced St Olave’s School’s Download Complete Team – reigning national champions – to be their partners in the elimination matches.

“Team ECLIPSE were then faced with a conundrum: did they pair up with their next highest ranked team, or did they choose familiarity in team Technogear, and hoist them up from lowly 15th Position to be part of the second overall-ranked alliance?” said Mr Noonan. They chose their classmates.

“The QE/St Olave’s pairing quickly made light work of their competitors, whilst the all-QE alliance were desperately unlucky to be denied by a falling robot and then to miss out by a single point. SYNAPSE-Download Complete went on to win their semi-final by 12 points, with their final match proving to be their tightest in elimination; they won by 12 points.

“Great credit is due to their drivers and designers, as well as their programmers for an autonomous routine which proved effective throughout,” said Mr Noonan.

Technogear were crowned Design Award winners and Robot Skills Award winner, making QE robotics the winners of three out of four awards on offer on the day.

The teams were made up as follows:

  • HYBRID (Year 12): Devin Karia, Tanishq Mehta, James Tan, Daniel Radzik-Rahman, Rishi Amin and Deshraam Ganeshamoorthy,
  • SYNAPSE (Year 10): Bhunit Santhiramoulesan, Ashwin Sridar, Heemy Kalam, Jao-Yong Tsai, Chakshu Chopra, Vedaangh Rungta,
  • ECLIPSE (Year 10): Frank Zhang, Arjun Arunkumar, Jashwanth Parimi, Raghav Rajaganesh, Arya Bhatt, Akhil Walia,
  • Technogear (Year 10): Anubhav Rathore, Aditya Khanna, Dylan Domb, Yash Shah, Utkarsh Bhamidimarri, Anish Rana.