Earlier this month, Mr Cruickshank accompanied 15 students on a trip to the University of South Wales in Pontypridd. There were a number of objectives on the trip, one of which was to experience what it is like at university. The site is actually quite impressive while all were impressed with the library and how well resourced it was (it even had back copies of Vogue magazine!).
The first trip was to the Upper Glyntaff campus where the students took part in a ‘Chemistry of food’ event. In the University’s Chemistry laboratories the students had the chance to perform a number of scientific investigations, using techniques normally reserved for ‘A’ level and Degree classes. Did you know crisps are 36% fat? Our first task was to extract the oil from a variety of foods, and calculate their percentage fat content. Digestive biscuits turned out to be 28% fat, that certainly made me think twice before I reached for the packet in the evening. Putting the bubbles into honeycomb was our second task. The science behind the process was explained, mixing acidic sugar and basic bicarbonate of soda to produce CO2 gas; then we got cooking, producing mountains of bubbly honeycomb. To end the day we used a process called titration (with the snazzy pink Phenolphthalein indicator) to rank kitchen liquids and drinks in order of their acidity; spring water was the least acidic and, perhaps unsurprisingly, lemon juice was the topped the chart.
The second trip was at the Trefforest campus where the students watched a one hour lecture titled ‘The modern Alchemist’. OK, I know what you’re thinking…lecture…boring! Well this definitely was’nt like one of Mr Evans’s lessons. The students managed to learn more about the periodic table but in a very interactive way. We saw hydrogen explosions, diamonds cutting through ice and a young lad riding a bike which generated enough electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Now for the science bit: being able to split water to make hydrogen is very important as hydrogen is an essential fuel for hydrogen powered cars. The great thing about this is that when hydrogen is burnt in a car it only releases water (no greenhouse gases…which is good!). Problem is a lot of energy is needed to split the water apart…still with me? Now scientists are looking into methods to strip the hydrogen off water molecules by the energy of the sun and a catalyst; this was demonstrated to us on a small scale but if it could be managed then the amount of pollution on our roads would drop to zero! Are you getting it; there is a point to science. Without it we’d be living in caves.
Anyway, the show finished off with another explosion one of which we do at the college; Dale the science technician would love it if you asked him to demonstrate the exploding paste experiment. After that a nice trip to subway (steak melt mmmm) where we heard Tonypandy’s got talent being advertised on the radio.
A great day had by all; year 10 were a credit to the College.