Discovering the Scientists of the Future at Newstead Wood School
Newstead Wood School for Girls held a Science Expo filled with interesting experiments, fascinating findings and plenty of young scientific talent on Tuesday, 10 March 2020.
Judged by an external judge, the winner’s poster, by Year Nine students Nika Gurenko, Isla Clark and Sophie Strachan (13 to 14), asked “How does the amount of sugar in a biscuit affect how much you like it?”, was an extensive look into how biscuit and other sweet manufacturers could appeal to a wider consumer base, whilst still remaining healthy. I chatted to them about their poster. “We found out that the oldest and the youngest participants thought that the biscuit with the most sugar was the best (150% sugar biscuit). We enjoyed this part because it was not what we expected as we thought the 150% biscuit would be too sweet.” said Sophie Strachan over email. It goes to show that there is plenty to discover, even if you start small. Posters in Year Eight and Nine alone included “How does music affect plant growth?” and investigations into the effect of salt on boiling water.
But excellent posters ranged from may year groups. I was one of the winners in Key Stage Four (Years 10 and 11), and, with my friends, one of whom was Caitlin Kinch (16), we investigated “How do different emotions affect pain tolerance?” She said, “I found making the box plots an interesting part if the process as it was the part where we could first see how the different emotions changed the pain tolerance.” These box plots were praised by the external judge as “very scientific”, which adhered to the winning group’s discovery where they “...learnt how to represent our data with graphs our [and show] results in more detail”.
But you don’t have to have the latest gear, or even have specialist skills to have a go at investigating a project. “You will be surprised at how much you can find using everyday items - we only needed a phone/computer to do our investigation. It is a fun experience and you can learn along the way.” said Caitlin. And when asked what they learnt during the course of the expo, the Year Nine group said that while carrying out their project, “Sophie learnt how to bake!” Nigel Sharma, science technician at Newstead Wood and coordinator of the expo said in his results announcement that he and the other judges were “impressed... with the quality of all the projects”- showing that from complex coding in discoveries about whether AI was advanced enough to detect why a baby is crying, to more simple skills in the stopping and starting of a stopwatch in our project, it’s your approach as much as anything that proves your scientific mind.
Ultimately, that’s what this event was about- not so much about your discovery but your curiosity. Sophie, Isla and Nika advised that students participating in similar events to “Add facts to make your poster more interesting.” Our team wanted to know about pain tolerance for real-world applications from hospitals to the Olympics. But regardless of what we intended to find out, we all learnt much more along the way- from the importance of thinking ahead to consider future problems to how to represent data- and that can never be a bad thing. So follow Caitlin’s advice- and “give it a go!”- you never know what you might find out.
Article written by Esther O'Neill. Click here to read it on our online newspapers.