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Wycliffe Visit - Nov 16

Monday 17th October 2016

Wycliffe Science Day Recount - Arthur Garrett


On 11th October 2016, Year 5 and 6 set off on a coach to enjoy a whole day of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at Wycliffe College. Looking forward to what was coming next, I felt the coach slowing down, with excitement bubbling inside me as if something was about to burst…

Entering the chapel, I realised that the first activity was about ‘Fantastic Plastic’. While I was sitting in a wooden chair, a lady – named Professor MacDonald – gave a talk about how plastic isn’t boring like most people think and what it is used for. As normally as if it was something that happens every day, the Professor picked up some scissors, started to pour some liquid polymer (plastic) and cut it to prove all of the particles were in a long chain. Next, she showed us a long chain of beads; it was like the particles of the polymer! The reason that the polymer was easy to cut, unlike water, was because it was half-way between a solid and a liquid: a gel. Did you know: you probably eat around 1,000 lipsticks in a lifetime!? Unbelievably, if you have some rubber tree sap and you mix it with lemon juice, you can create a very bouncy plastic ball!

Our second activity was called ‘Gastronauts’, situated in Sibley Hall. Explaining what a flame does to icing sugar, the two scientists on stage physically lit a flame and touched the icing sugar on it. BANG!!!!! A flame has oxygen (O2) and this gas causes the sugar to explode. Also in this lesson, they blended some red cabbage with some water, then poured it into a cylinder. When adding washing powder – an alkaline - the liquid turned turquoise; also, it turned pink when they added lime juice – an acid. Clearly slightly worried at being chosen as assistants, a girl from another school and her teacher walked up to the stage. The two scientists gave them both some beetroot to eat and, once they had eaten it, told them it would make their faeces go red! Also, once they had devoured some asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke, they told them that asparagus makes your urine smelly and Jerusalem artichoke makes you flatulent a lot! Once the horrified assistants had sat down again, the scientists told us that the reason you flatulent a lot when you eat Jerusalem artichoke is that you can’t digest it properly, so the bugs inside you eat away at the artichoke which makes you produce wind (flatulents). They mentioned that the calories of the food that you eat burn up inside you, where the temperature is normally 37½°C. Moving a bin to the front of the stage, they held it up horizontally and began making rings of smoke the same size as the bin float into the audience. Everyone stood up and tried to touch the rings, but only a few people managed to. After they had stopped, they asked everyone what they could smell. One person answered: ‘marmite’. Unfortunately, this was wrong, although they did agree that it smelt a bit like marmite. Somewhere near the front of the audience, another person tried and exclaimed: ‘chocolate’. The scientists explained that the smoke rings were indeed scented with chocolate.

For the next activity, we had to move rooms: we were in a room not far from the place where we parked the coach. This activity was named: ‘Mathemagic’. The aim was to put 13 playing cards in a certain order so that when you spelt out the name of each card (e.g. when you spell out A, C, E – putting a card at the bottom of the pile each time), the next card should be an ace; you then repeat it with: K, I, N, G; Q, U, E, E, N; J, A, C, K … and so on. Some groups managed it; others got a bit stuck. All the same, it was a fun game.

‘The Farming Game’ was next. Again, we had to change locations. Standing at the front of the room, a lady explained what we had to do: we had to choose five different types of crops - one for each of the five fields - and, using a whiteboard pen, we wrote down the crops on a laminated piece of paper. We were allowed to fertilise one field every year. We did it for four years in total. After that, we recorded the price of the crops (including the fertilisation) and the profit. We only had £100 to buy crops so we had to use it wisely.

In the room next to where we were for ‘The Farming Game’, a lady explained what we needed to do for this activity – ‘The Spaghetti and Marshmallow Challenge’. During around ten minutes, we had to construct a tower using only spaghetti and marshmallows. As well as lots of little marshmallows, there was one big one too, along with different lengths of spaghetti. Pushing the spaghetti into the marshmallows to make it stay together, we had to repeat this to build the tallest construction. However, the lady and her assistants only measured up to the big marshmallow, so you had to be careful you included it and put it at the top. Our tower failed when the time was nearing the end, but we managed to fix a bit of it before the time was up (although it still wasn’t very stable!).

The final activity everybody did: ‘Flesh Eaters’. We wrote a separate scientific investigation about this, so please read that instead. Thanks. J

Over all, I enjoyed myself very much at Wycliffe College. All the activities were great and good fun. Thanks Wycliffe! J

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