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Year 12 students come third in STEM Society Quiz at Woldingham

On 23rd February, a group of Year 12 students took part in Woldingham School’s STEM Society Quiz in which six schools competed.

Entering Woldingham’s reception, we were greeted by the host of the event, Mr Rickard, who welcomed us to the school. After signing in, we were guided to the Auditorium. On our way there, we got to have good a look around, where we saw the size of the school and a few of its corresponding facilities. When we opened the doors to the Auditorium, I was astounded by the size and amazing lighting. We were then directed to take a seat.

After waiting for the other schools to arrive, we were informed of the resources at our stations and sat down at them. We started with multiple-choice questions with 10 seconds to provide an answer. In this round, we were quizzed on such topics as “When was Microsoft founded” and “What natural element is rarest in earth's crust”.

The next was a buzzer round of questions in which the fastest team would provide an answer. To discourage a team for buzzing with no answer, a point would be removed if the wrong answer was provided. In this round, we got some questions right, but sadly one of us buzzed first for a question - only to forget the answer! Questions included, “What malware is named after a possible Greek event” and, “What did the founder of the Noble prize, Alfred Nobel, most famously invent”.

STEMThe third round was longer problem-solving questions where 60 seconds were provided to answer the questions. These required a lot more problem-solving and or more relevant knowledge. A couple of organic chemistry questions were asked, “Construct propanoic acid (using the 3-D molecules set)” and, “What is formed between ethanoic acid and propan-2-ol (using the 3-D molecules set)?”. One question where we were extremely confident was a diagram of the heart that had to be filled in. Thanks to one of the three biologists, Isabel, we made short work of it.

The fourth round was engineering/mechanics focused as we had to construct a structure which could support a tennis ball for 10 seconds - and it had to be the tallest. We were given 3 minutes to plan and 10 minutes to build using cardboard straws and masking tape. I first thought of using a Tepee design, as it is very stable while providing an excellent place for the tennis ball to rest in, whilst not compromising the structural integrity. However, neither I or the others knew how to construct it correctly, and so I suggested that a triangular-based construction would be best. Three of us worked on making triangles and Isabel tried to figure the holding mechanism. While working, we agreed that we would focus on the structure being sturdy and robust, instead of risking a disqualification via collapse.

As the dread of time loomed over our heads, it was decided to construct a square-based pyramid with the triangles we had made – even if I protested the use of a heretical square. On completion, we placed the tennis ball on its top and… it stood! It could easily be moved about (and even took some force) with ease. The only problem was that it was miniscule compared to the others! As we looked around, we saw the other structures, such as the teams’ from Sevenoaks, whose great design also made use of triangles but used a netting of masking tape on top to keep the tennis ball in place.

Finally, was the presentation of ‘How would you spend £100,000 on reducing your school's carbon footprint?’. In our case, our PowerPoint was to be delivered by one person, Paul, as we had prearranged. However, it did not cross our mind that it could be done as a group. We saw, as the others gave their presentations together, with an extreme level of detail, mentioning the use of ‘IR insulation paint’, enzymes and boring a deeper hole into a reservoir for more water access. Instead of panicking, we kept to the plan and Paul held his ground while delivering, our short but effective presentation.

Ours was simple and short but to the point. We communicated solar panels should be placed on the rooves, as to generate electricity and be a source of revenue; use of unnecessary lighting should be reduced, halogen-based light bulbs to be replaced with LEDs, and motion sensors should be put in place; encouraging and incentivisation of cycling or walking, reduction of paper printing, a re-balance to the school food menu to make less use of food that creates a large carbon footprint, education of staff and students of energy usage with appliances.

After all the presentations were delivered Mr Rickard informed us that the judges were to go and deliberate and, in the meantime, Dr Noelia E. D. Noël from the University of Surrey gave a lecture on ‘whether or not there is life out there’, astrophysics, and women in physics.

When the results were to be announced, we and our teacher were anxious to hear the results; being the only state school and unsure of our overall performance - we could only wait to hear the outcome… and we came third! Certainly not as amazing as a second or first but to come third meant that we beat three other schools, which was good enough for us. We harboured no grudge to neither the hosts Woldingham who came second, or Sevenoaks who won. Sevenoaks in particularly were wonderful competitors.

Ultimately, we enjoyed the competition, even our happy accidents! Thank you to Woldingham School for having us and hosting this wonderful quiz.

Written by Dilaan Ramphul

Edited by Patryk Nowak