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Look of success! QE boys’ eyes on national finals following victory in regional round of prestigious Chemistry competition

A QE team will go to the national finals of a Royal Society of Chemistry competition after beating off fierce competition to win their regional heat.

Team 38 (pictured top) scored 66 out of a maximum possible 72 – or 92% – to take first place ahead of St Benedict’s School, on 65 points, in the Chilterns and Middlesex round of the Top of the Bench competition.

In joint third place, with 64 points apiece, were three other QE teams and a team from Harrow School.

Head of Chemistry Amy Irvine said: “We are very proud of the four boys in the winning team – what an achievement!”

Describing team 38’s score as “magnificent”, Paul Tiley, from the RSC’s Chilterns and Middlesex Local Section Committee, added: “We were very impressed with their knowledge and understanding of Chemistry.”

The winning team comprised: Zayn Phoplankar, of Year 11; Vu-Lam Le-Nguyen, of Year 10; Aarush Choudhary, of Year 9, and Rishan Virmani, also of Year 9.

In addition to progressing to the national round of the competition in the spring, they win a silver shield and Amazon vouchers.

They were among a total of five teams entered by QE, all made up of boys from Years 9–11. All five finished among the top ten teams. “Their teamwork was exceptional, as they answered some very challenging Chemistry problems via Zoom,” said Dr Irvine.

The Top of the Bench competition is open to all secondary schools in the UK and has been running for more than 20 years.

Boys towards the bottom end of the School have been solving Chemistry problems of their own in the Year 7–9 Chemystery club (photos 2 & 3).

With a little help from sixth-formers, they determined the citric acid concentration in sour sweets – specifically, Swizzles Fizzers and Haribo Sour Sparks.

“The students solved this particular ‘mystery’ very well, with some excellent titration technique on display from the younger boys, supported by our brilliant Year 12 chemists,” Dr Irvine added.

Beating the armada but battered by bacteria! Anniversary Science festival takes boys back to Tudor times

Pupils learned about the often grim – yet sometimes surprisingly positive – realities of life at the time the School was founded in 1573.

Year 8 boys conducted experiments to explore improvements in shipbuilding during Elizabeth I’s reign, to show how food was preserved in an age before refrigeration and to make their own Tudor-style soap.

The 450th anniversary Science festival also featured a poster competition open to Years 7–9, while  Year 12 Biology students enjoyed some cutting-edge lectures and demonstrations at a Biology in Action day in London.

The Science festival was one of a number being run by academic departments under QE’s new Flourish extra-curricular programme.

Assistant Head Crispin Bonham-Carter (Pupil Involvement), who leads Flourish, said: “Subject festivals are a great way to stimulate boys’ academic curiosity by exploring topics outside the normal run of the curriculum.

“It is fascinating to see how my colleagues in the Science department have used the occasion of the anniversary to take a practical look at a diverse set of Science-related topics, to stimulate boys’ artistic creativity, and even to challenge one or two false beliefs about the Tudor age.”

The Year 8 boys carried out their experiments in a series of special workshops in their Biology, Chemistry and Physics lessons. They produced, said Head of Biology Gillian Ridge, some “fantastic work”.

One set of experiments focused on the challenges of keeping food safe in an age before modern refrigeration.

The boys grew bacteria on agar plates in different conditions to find out which preservation methods worked best. Agar plates are Petri dishes that contains a growth medium solidified with agar; they are used to culture microorganisms.

In their illustrated report on their experiments, Year 8 pupils Rishan Virmani and Sathvik Velan noted that they had “learned about the lack of hygiene awareness within Tudor society, and that biology and self-preservation [were not] important”.

The boys also found out about soap in the Tudor period, learning that, contrary to popular belief, it would have been used in every household, regardless of status or wealth.

After instruction in the principles of saponification – the chemical process of making soap – pupils tried their hand at making their own.

Another hands-on session involved making model boats out of aluminium foil to see which boat shape could hold the most mass. The boys learned that innovations by shipwrights during Elizabeth I’s reign allowed the introduction of ships that were faster, more manoeuvrable and carried heavier guns. The superiority of English ships was an important factor of the defeat of the Spanish Armada invasion fleet in 1588.

After their trip to London, the A-level Biology students prepared presentations to share what they had learned with the rest of Year 12 and with Year 11.

The Lower School poster competition was judged according to three criteria:

  • Creativity
  • Content (being clear, accurate and informative about a STEM topic)
  • Effective communication.

Year 8’s Aathi Jeyanth won the competition with his colourful look at the food chain, which included cartoon drawings of animals.

Click on the thumbnails below to see highlights of the poster competition. First is Aathi’s winning entry, followed by posters produced by: Aaryan Prabhaker, Year 7; Arihaant Venuraju, Year 7; Zhekai Mao, Year 7, and Akshaj Vyas, of Year 9.


Sharpening skills and getting creative on climate change – together!

Some of QE’s youngest pupils met up with their counterparts at a leading girls’ school for a day-long academic symposium on climate change.

Twenty-four Year 7 boys made the trip to independent North London Collegiate School, where they got to grips with climate change data and practised the skills needed to make a persuasive presentation advocating for climate action.

QE extra-curricular enrichment tutor and Science teacher Xiangming Xu said: “This trip was a great opportunity for students from both schools to work collaboratively on tackling environmental issues that we are facing currently within society.

“By the end of the morning session, all of them had managed to sharpen their skills on graph interpretation and data interrogation. The afternoon session was more ‘creativity’-based, with small groups producing a short presentation on the subject of What is the climate crisis and why should you care? Overall, it was a very successful event.

“Such partnership events with top girls’ schools stretch our pupils academically, boost their subject knowledge and enhance their oracy and presentation skills, while also giving them valuable opportunities to work collaboratively alongside girls, thus preparing them for a co-educational university environment and for their later careers.”

The day began with presentations from Science teachers aimed at familiarising the boys and girls with the issues involved and at providing the knowledge and scientific language with which to talk confidently about them. During the presentations, the pupils learned about: the use of data; scientific observation based on objects such as ice cores and fossils; greenhouse gases, and negative & positive feedback loops.

The pupils were arranged into groups of six – three boys and three girls – and encouraged to discuss the science behind the climate crisis. “Students from both schools engaged well with the teachers in this activity,” said Mr Xu.

One of the boys involved, Arin Gupta, said he had enjoyed, firstly, the session led by NLCS teacher Mr Dave, which covered both climate change itself and the vocabulary used to talk about it. “I really liked this session as it challenged some of the assumptions that I had made previously about climate change and persuaded me to change them.”

After that, Mr Xu addressed the pupils on how a picture can be worth a thousand words, with a simple photo, diagram or sketch being a powerful way of conveying emotion. Arin said: “We looked at different graphs, which gave us a lot of insight into what could be done about the climate crisis. For example, I was shocked to learn that eating no beef for a year would save water equivalent to leaving your kitchen tap on full blast for six days straight.”

The main aim of the day was for each group to make a compelling pitch to specific audiences –such as a business, a politician or a group of primary school children – setting out why and how they needed to change. Accordingly, the pupils next studied a range of rhetorical and literary devices which they could deploy as tools for their own presentations. They considered a speech by Greta Thunberg and also looked at poems warning about the peril faced by the planet.

“There was great variety in the final presentations,” said Mr Xu, “with impactful, passionate speeches, poignant poems, stimulating sketches and even catchy advertising jingles.”

The symposium proved popular with the boys, whose comments afterwards included:

  • “It was a trip I will never forget.” Eshaan Anil
  • “I had a wonderful day at NLCS and I learnt more than I could’ve imagined.” Arun Chopra
  • “All of us got along quite well – especially the last part of the day where we all did our plays and poems (this was the best part of the day)! As a team, we all made the speech and this was inspirational. The second-best part was the tour around the school, and it was M-A-S-S-I-V-E.” Dhruva Bejugam
  • “It greatly enhanced my critical thinking skills and I learnt, not only how to interpret graphs, but also to critically analyse them and to find their flaws…On the whole, I absolutely loved the NLCS trip and found it a fascinating, fun and insightful educational experience, where I could meet new people and learn new things.” Afraz Khan
Poetry, puzzles, castles, eco products…and a truly dastardly crime: it’s the QE 2022 Primary Challenge!

QE expanded its series of popular challenges for local primary school children this year, adding a humanities day to the programme.

The events, which are part of QE’s partnerships work with the local community, are aimed at giving Year 5 girls and boys an early taste of secondary school education.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We are pleased to support local primary schools in this way.

“I know that our staff and pupils involved in running these enrichment activities greatly enjoy the opportunity to meet the visiting children.”

The first of the three days was the ever-popular Primary Forensics Workshop. The visitors were tasked with completing a number of experiments and analyses to work out who had murdered the Headmaster!

There were stations where the children could undertake: hair and fibre analysis using a microscope; fingerprint analysis, and blood spatter analysis (with a blood substitute).

The pupils worked to solve the ‘crime’, using the evidence they collected to build a case, while also weighing up the respective motives of the suspects.

Boys from Year 12 helped staff run this workshop, engaging with the children at each station.

In the Maths and English Challenge, the girls and boys had to solve a series of games and puzzles that ranged from a cross-number round to a session looking at composing and performing poetry.

There was a focus on teamwork and collaboration. Each team had the support of a QE Year 7 pupil.

Special plaudits went to Foulds School pupils, who achieved a near-clean sweep of the prizes, having impressed across the various disciplines on the day.

The new humanities day hosted by the History, Geography and Economics departments comprised two separate activities.

Firstly, teams were given the challenge of designing a castle on paper. They had to base their design on a certain set of criteria and follow a budget, requiring them to decide which features they wanted to prioritise.

They then faced a number of scenarios, presenting both challenges and opportunities for their fortifications. Could their castle and kingdom survive?

“This was a way of exploring history and strategy in a fun and engaging way,” said Mr Enright. “The Year 5 pupils also had to adapt their plans as the scenarios unfolded, which meant teams had to communicate well and quickly make decisions.”

There was then a Sustainability Challenge run jointly by Geography and Economics. The children had to work in groups and devise a sustainable product. They designed their product, chose a logo and decided on their target market. Then each group presented to the other children in attendance. Among the ideas generated were: a mobile phone where the case is a solar panel and charges the phone, and a ‘plastic’ bottle where the bottle itself is biodegradable.

“Our staff were really impressed with the confidence shown by the children in their presentations and by the creativity they brought to bear in designing their products,” said the Headmaster.

Participating Barnet primary schools this year included: Underhill, Whitings Hill, Christchurch, and Foulds.

Everyone’s a winner: alumni helping QE boys hit the heights

Old Elizabethans helped 50 boys battle it out in a Galactic Challenge at the School that saw all three teams secure multi-billion pound contracts for an imagined settlement in space.

The pupils from Years 7–9 (and from across tutor groups) formed aerospace ‘companies’ to participate in the space industry simulation challenge, competing against not only each other but also the clock. Their target was to design a space station for 100 years hence, when space travel might be commonplace. The remit was for a tourist resort that would orbit Mars.

Lending their expertise and experience on the day were four 2017 leavers: Aadil Kara, Neelesh Ravichandran and Harikesan Baskaran and Suchira Peiris. Aadil, Neelesh and Harikesan all got through to the national stages of the UK Space Design Competition (Galactic Challenge’s ‘big brother’ for older pupils) when they were in Year 13, with Aadil going on to reach international level.

Jonathan Brooke, Head of Physics, has been impressed by how the OEs have sustained their commitment to STEM outreach throughout their undergraduate studies and beyond: “It’s even more impressive to see this commitment continue as they move into challenging careers and post-graduate study,” he said.

“They were the driving force behind digital Galactic Challenge competitions that were a welcome diversion to our boys during lockdown, and it was an honour and a pleasure to welcome them back to the School to host an in-person competition.”

Mr Brooke was also thanked the Year 12 boys who helped on the day. “Without them, the event could not have run so smoothly.”

The challenge has two main objectives: to help foster pupils’ interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and to help them develop so-called ‘soft skills’, such as team-working, communication, and the ability to solve complex problems.

Aadil, who studied Physics at Imperial College London and now works as a data analyst for the Civil Service, said: “It was a joy to see the teams rise to the challenge, and to work productively in a way that rivals some professional teams!”

Harikesan, who is working towards a Master’s in Engineering for International Development at UCL, added: “The boys engaged within and outside their teams to produce some truly amazing designs. The fact that all teams won contracts is a testament to the quality of work produced across the board. Everyone really was a winner today!”

Neelesh now works as a technical analyst at Credit Suisse, having read Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London. He said: “A brilliant amalgamation of strategy, engineering, science and public speaking skills – the Galactic Challenge was a joy to help with.”

Suchira left QE to read Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, before securing a role as a consulting data analyst at the Information Lab. He said: “As a volunteer it was inspiring to see how engaged and active the students were in the competition, the out-of-the-box thinking, novel problem-solving and, in nearly every case, a board-worthy presentation!”

All four OEs commented on how much they had enjoyed being back at the School in person, observing that much had changed there in the past five years.

The three ‘companies’, Astrodyne Delta, Infinity Airspace and Solaris Flight Systems, were given a Request for Proposal (RFP) reflecting a typical design brief in the space engineering industry. They were asked to bid on a range of design modules: from the design of the command centre, to the power & energy generation, and the operations of the resort facility itself.

After trailing team Astrodyne Delta through the early stages of the competition, Solaris Flight Systems came through in the final stage to secure victory by the tightest of margins, winning contracts worth £320bn, against Astrodyne Delta’s £315bn. Infinity Airspace were not too far behind, on £300bn, with all three impressing the judges and securing contracts.

The judging panel comprised: Jenny Lyons, Director of Education at the Galactic Challenge; Alison Ahearn, Deputy Director of Education at the Galactic Challenge and Principal Teaching Fellow at Imperial College London; Headmaster Neil Enright; Gillian Ridge, Head of Biology; Tamara Rakviashvili, Science Technician, and Science teachers Bryn Evans, and J Murphy.

The designs were assessed in three stages over the day. Stages 1 and 2 were presented during the day to peers and judges, while Stage 3 was presented at the end of the day to parents, peers and the judging panel.

All the right elements: winning team’s design uses light to purify water

A seven-strong team from Harrisons’ House won a Year 9 careers competition with their carefully thought-through design for a ‘smart’ water bottle that would use UV light to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Team 4’s Water UVC bottle could thus benefit many millions across the developing world without access to safe drinking water, the boys explained in their richly illustrated, 31-page PowerPoint presentation. They even included an option for the UV lamp to be solar-powered to make the bottle viable for people who could not afford mains electricity.

The aim of the activity was to encourage boys both to develop their entrepreneurial skills and to make use of Science, Mathematics and Technology as they prepare to make their subject option choices.

The teams were given a choice of four briefs to work on, with Team 4 choosing the fourth  – “design and make a ‘smart’ water bottle that has at least one other function”.

Making the announcement that Team 4 had won, Assistant Head (Pupil Progress) Sarah Westcott said: “During last term’s lockdown, our usual face-to-face careers activities for Year 9 in this important period of their School careers had to be reimagined. We amended our plans so that boys could work from home, while still developing important work-related skills such as creativity, teamwork, independence and the ability to communicate their ideas.”

Dr Westcott judged the entries together with Head of Year 9 Sean Kelly, who is a Technology teacher.

“Both Mr Kelly and I loved the creativity and simplicity behind the winning design: all members of the team worked equally to realise the design brief and develop the marketing materials – which included a website!”

The boys’ PowerPoint presentation featured hand-drawn illustrations, as well as photography and computer graphics.

After an introduction, the presentation set out the whole process of turning the stainless steel bottle into a mass-produced product, with major sections entitled Design and Creativity, Manufacturing, Marketing and Pecuniary Matters (finance).

  • Team 4 comprised: Shivam Vyas; Rohan Varia; Jenarth Thavapalan; Manthan Thakkar; Shrey Tater; Abyan Shah and Shreyaas Sandeep.



Credit where credit’s due: no plagiarism here!

Finalists in QE’s Mars Lander project not only impressed with their knowledge of space travel, but also showed they had got to grips with the more down-to-earth requirements of academic research. 

Assistant Head (Pupil Progress) Sarah Westcott paid tribute to the finalists in the Year 7 contest, praising them for eschewing all plagiarism and crediting references accurately. 

The boys had to put together a PowerPoint file with facts and figures about the requirements, challenges and risks of sending a manned spacecraft to Marswith shortlisted entrants then submitting a video of themselves delivering the presentation.  

While their space knowledge was an important factor, the main purpose of the project included teaching the boys about what constitutes plagiarism and how to carry out basic referencing, and developing their fact-finding skills, both online and written. The project was part of the Summer Term’s Personal Development Time scheme of work. 

After shortlisting nine pupils to submit a recording of their work, Head of Year Tom Harrison had the difficult task of selecting just four for Dr Westcott to assess and judge. Placing Colin Copcea first, Dr Westcott said: “Colin really impressed with his presentation – not only his grasp of scientific facts and choice of images, but also his use of references and sources.” 

Daniel Macholl took second place, with Kayilai Dinesh and Akhilesh Karthikeyan sharing the third spot. 

“I was very impressed with the amount of effort the boys had put into their research and presentations,” said Mr Harrison. “It was really very difficult to select just four as the finalists, as the standard was very high. All the participants did very well.” 

Dr Westcott was also struck by how well the boys presented their findings and the way in which they had clearly grasped the essentials of referencing and the unacceptability of plagiarism. “They generally chose highly reputable sources for their research – NASA, the BBC – and looked carefully at the file extensions, for example .gov, which give a fairly good indication as to whether a particular website is likely to be reliable.” She told them that although Wikipedia could be a good starting point for research, it should never be quoted as a primary source, as its independence could not be guaranteed. 

In a recorded adjudication for Year 7, she praised the boys for their high level of scientific content and offered advice on how their work could be even further improved. 

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.

Starring roles: alumni aim to inspire current pupils with a love for space

Five veterans of QE’s past national and international successes in space design competitions returned to Barnet to help stage an inter-school Galactic Challenge.

Aadil Kara (OE 2010–2017), who has just completed the second year of a Physics degree at Imperial College, is currently Chair of the Galactic Challenge (GC) – 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, worked with QE’s Head of Physics, Jonathan Brooke, to help the School host a Galactic Challenge for secondary schools in London.

“Old Elizabethans are currently playing a key role in the organisation of both the UKSDC and the GC,” said Mr Brooke. “I’m hugely impressed by their willingness to give up their time to support these competitions which give children from schools across the country experience of working in large teams under a tight deadline – a taste of the challenges associated with professional life that are difficult to replicate in the classroom.”

Helping Aadil and Mr Brooke were Aadil’s QE contemporaries and former UKSDC co-competitors, Neelesh Ravichandran, Harikesan Baskaran and Sam Bayney, as well as David Dubinksy, who attended QE from 2012–2016. Neelesh, Harikesan and Sam all served as Coordinators on the day, while David, who, like Aadil, reached the international stages of UKSDC in his year, was the volunteer CEO for one of the competing teams, or ‘companies’.

The Galactic Challenge is a space industry simulation challenge for students aged 10-14. Children design a settlement in space within just a few hours, competing against other teams, as well as the clock.

At QE, in addition to the School’s own Year 7 company, named Columbus Aviation, there were entries from: Dame Alice Owen’s School; The Charter School, North Dulwich; The Henrietta Barnett School and The Latymer School.

Aadil said: “We run GC competitions throughout the country firstly to stimulate students’ interests in STEM from the early ages of secondary education, and secondly to help them develop ‘soft skills’, including team-working and interpersonal skills. Having first participated in the process in the Sixth Form, it was a pleasure to be able to bring the competition back to the School.”

The ‘companies’ worked to complete a task set by the fictional Foundation Society. In the morning, they were given a Request for Proposal (RFP) co-written by Aadil that reflects a typical design brief in the space engineering industry; they then spent the day producing designs in response, assisted by a volunteer ‘CEO’ for each company.

The scenario involved them jumping forward to 2069, coinciding with the celebration of the centenary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Students produced designs for Armstrong, the first holiday resort on the moon, named in honour of Neil Armstrong, famously the first person to step on to its surface in 1969.

The Armstrong resort had to include a commemorative area around the Apollo 11 landing site and to host trips from tourists visiting from other settlements around Earth’s orbit. Competitors also had to find a way to make the lower half of the Apollo 11 Lunar Model (which remains on the moon’s surface) the centrepiece of a tourist attraction, whilst considering how to conserve the site.

The companies’ design proposals considered almost all aspects of the design of a futuristic space settlement, from the activities offered to tourists to the methods of power generation.

At the end of the day, the companies presented their work in ten minutes to an audience of parents, their peers, and a judging panel. In the presentations, students suggested ideas including: settlements made out of recycled materials; rearing rabbits on the moon, and Earthrise viewing platforms, with the home QE team suggesting lunar bungee-jumping. The winning team was a combined company – Astrodyne Delta – drawn from Dame Alice Owen’s School and The Charter School, North Dulwich.

Afterwards, Neelesh, who has come to the end of his second year at Imperial, where he is reading Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: “Volunteering at UKSDC is a truly rewarding experience. The enthusiasm, curiosity and ingenuity of the participants is awe-inspiring and has served to remind me of why I study engineering. Both these competitions are a test of character and imagination, for volunteers and participants alike.”

Harikesan has finished the second year of a Mechanical Engineering/Computational Engineering and Design at Southampton. He starts a placement with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars this month. “Volunteering at the UKSDC and GC competitions provides an invaluable opportunity to encourage students to see STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics] in its true colours.”

David, who has just finished the third year of an Aeronautical Engineering degree at Durham University, still recalls the inspiration he drew from the UKSDC himself: “Taking part in the competition sparked a strong obsession with space; I was drawn by the utopian, fantastical designs of future space settlements and enjoyed imagining life in such a future. I opened a space society at QE, which some OEs may remember, and attended the annual Student Space Conference in Year 12, a fantastic event organised by the same parent organisation as the Galactic Challenge, the UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UK SEDS). At Durham, I’ve also joined the university’s SEDS branch where we had some great networking with brave local startups and have helped organise trips to the Student Space Conference. My first internship was in a small electronics company, as it was technically in the space sector.”

Although the internship proved to be a disappointing experience, during his time there he was able to re-focus on what he really wanted – “to pursue unprecedented and utopian technology design” – which led him into the field he is currently targeting, namely “minimal-fuel, lighter-than-air travel, in other words engineering modern blimps and airships!” It is, reflects David, “all a long chain of events from saying ‘yes’ to my friend asking me if I wanted to fill an empty space in the first QE UKSDC team, which I turned down at first because I was nervous!”

Sam has finished the second year of a Medicine degree at Southampton. He said: “It’s good to see kids taking an interest in these types of projects at this age – it develops skills they will need to solve the global problems facing us in the near future.”

Poster on the pros and cons of plastics takes top prize in Chemistry competition

Year 8 pupil Maxwell Johnson’s colourful and carefully researched poster about plastics won first prize in a Royal Society of Chemistry regional competition.

Entrants in the under-13 competition run by the RSC’s Chilterns and Middlesex Division were challenged to prepare a poster under the heading of The Chemistry Around Us.

Maxwell’s multi-coloured entry spelled out his title using letters from the Periodic Table and then set out the advantages of plastics – a ‘wonder substance’ – while contrasting these with the problems this ‘material mess’ causes.

He received a certificate signed by RSC divisional committee member Vanessa Nottage, together with £25-worth of Amazon vouchers.

QE Chemistry teacher and Extra-curricular Enrichment Tutor Keith Bugler said: “Many congratulations to Maxwell on the research and care he put into his entry: I thought his poster was awesome!”

Among the positive attributes of plastics that Maxwell listed were its light weight, durability and versatility, Dr Bugler said. However, Maxwell pointed out the problems caused in the oceans when UV rays make plastics crumble into microplastics less than 5mm long. These endanger many sea animals, including birds and whales, and also enter the human food chain, causing health problems such as hormonal dysfunction and cancers.