More than 50 students from 13 schools in South London, Kent and Surrey last week enjoyed a fun-filled day of chemistry at the Salters' Festival of Chemistry at London South Bank University.
The Salters Festival of Chemistry is an initiative of The Salters' Institute, whose aim is to promote the appreciation of chemistry and related sciences among the young.
The festival held at LSBU on 15 May is one of a series of 49 events, taking place at universities throughout the UK and Ireland between April and July this year.
Amongst the teams visiting LSBU – each made up of four 11-13 year olds – were pupils from St Saviour's and St Olave's School at Bricklayers Arms.
During the morning the teams took part in the competitive hands-on practical activity 'The Salters' Challenge' – during which they were presented with a forensic investigation case called 'The Body in the Staff Room'. Working in groups of four, students were encouraged to use their analytical chemistry skills to solve the case.
In the afternoon, the teams were treated to a chemical magical demonstration, before competing in the 'University Challenge', a practical activity chosen by LSBU, which involved timing the speed of a chemical reaction using the change of opacity of a solution from clear to cloudy. Local Southwark School Sacred Heart took home the prize for the University Challenge.
"Chemistry is important for anyone who wants to study science at university," said Dr Anne-Maria Brennan, principal lecturer in bioscience and forensic science at LSBU.
"For biologists and medical scientists it is vital to know how the chemistry of life operates. Even astrophysicists need chemistry to explain the origins and development of the universe.
"Closer to home, chemistry is a key part of our lives, the food we eat and drink, the clothes we wear, the fuel we use. All of these are based on a knowledge and understanding of chemistry. Most amazing of all the code of all living things is encoded in a chemical ... DNA.
"The applications of this area of molecular biology enable us to understand how diseases operate and even help us solve crimes. Never has there been a better time to study chemistry- it opens up many opportunities to the enquiring mind."
The action-packed day ended with a prize-giving session, during which all participating pupils were given individual fun prizes and participation certificates and the teams were awarded prizes for their schools.