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School children become detectives at UEA event

Students from around 30 schools across East Anglia will become crime scene investigators at an event organised by the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) School of Chemistry, aimed at inspiring the next generation of chemists. 

Around 130 pupils aged between 11 and 13 will attend the two-day Salters’ Festival of Chemistry event (23 -24 May) hosted by the UEA, where they will take part in a number of interactive activities, including helping solve a mystery, competing in a university laboratory challenge and learning about everyday chemistry through a magic show.

This year the Salters’ Institute, which was founded in 1918 to assist young chemistry students returning from the war to complete their studies, celebrates is centenary.  As part of the celebrations, the students will be solving “The Mystery of the Missing Centenary Trophy” for which they will need to carry out scientific tests in order to identify the culprit in a robbery by linking suspects to a crime scene. Each school will put forward a team of four students, who will work together to complete the challenges.

After taking part in a university challenge testing the students laboratory practical skills, the students will then watch a chemical magic science show known as ‘Kitchen Chemistry’ presented by Dr Stephen Ashworth from the School of Chemistry. ‘Kitchen Chemistry’ was first developed in 2010 and is a series of demonstrations such as burning fuel in air, known and the ‘whoosh bottle’ because of the characteristic noise it makes. The experiment ‘exploding custard’ will reveal the amount of energy in a sample of cornflour.  

Dr Ashworth, said: “Many people see science as inaccessible and something which can only be studied by the most intelligent students. The audience can connect with these practical demonstrations because they involve familiar items to produce spectacular visual effects.”

Event organiser Dr Carl Harrington, said: “This event has been running at UEA for over 10 years and is always hugely popular. It is a fabulous opportunity for students to immerse themselves in activities in a university setting which showcases the exciting nature of experimental chemistry.”

While the students complete their challenges, their teachers will have a talk from Megan Carter at the Salters’ Institute and Dr Rizwana Alvi from the Royal Society of Chemistry on their initiatives, as well as a talk from the Head of Learning Technology at UEA, Alicia McConnell.