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Young scientists from some of the county’s schools have been given the opportunity to compete in a series of chemistry challenges, in a real life setting.

Pupils from 14 of the region’s schools, including children from Hellesdon, Sprowston, Reepham and Norwich, took part in this year’s Top of the Bench Science Investigation Day, which is organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The competition, the East Anglian heat of a national competition, was held at Briar Chemicals Limited, and saw pupils take on three separate tasks on theme of light and soil. The tasks took place in the laboratories at Briar Chemicals, giving the pupils the opportunity to make use of the facilities and equipment on offer at the site, in a setting outside of the classroom.

Stephen Ashworth, chairman of the local section of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said:

“The aim of the day was to encourage a love of chemistry in the children and give them something to aim for in the future.

“The top of the bench competition gives children the chance to use concepts they will have met in the classroom and apply them to a real life situation outside of the classroom, as well as giving them an insight into what chemistry looks like in an industrial setting.”

Tharin Blumenschein, a lecturer of the University of East Anglia School of Chemistry, said: “The UEA helps organise this competition every year and are always looking for different ways to challenge the children taking part.”

“Children always seem very keen and become very focused on what they’re doing when they’re put in a real life laboratory like this.”

Haydn Dalton, technical specialist for Briar Chemicals, added: “The whole point of this top of the bench competition is to give children experience of real life laboratory environment, but more importantly, have fun, and learn. The children are always really enthused by being here, and really engage with their tasks.”

Royal Society of Chemistry Top of the Bench competition
Top of the Bench Competition winners, Hellesdon High School

Xander, a year 10 pupil of Hellesdon High School, said:

We’re still starting to understand how everything works and getting used to the equipment, but the new setting has really helped us in doing this.

Kevin, a year 11 pupil of Northgate High, added:

The experience has been good as we’ve been able to work in teams and try out different things in a different setting, and see how they work.

The winning school was Hellesdon High School, a school local to Briar. Its pupils will advance to the national finals in London.