Ffynone House School has triumphed in The Royal Society of Chemistry’s gruelling competition. We were the only independent school in Swansea to enter this year’s ‘Top of the Bench’ event and were up against tough competition from other schools. After two of our team achieved first place in their timed computer round and then excelled in the practical lab activity, we drew St Joseph’s in the semi-final. In this section of the competition, the students faced quick-fire questions, some to answer individually and some as a team. Ffynone won this round confidently, 52-29. In the final, their adversaries were Christ College. Here the team of four boys achieved a hard-fought win of 45-34 to become regional champions.
A tougher competition
For the first time, this South West Wales heat was held at Swansea University. The competition, previously known as the Chemical Olympiad, has been recently revamped and now features an assessment of the team’s performance in a live lab experiment. The team practised at lunchtimes and had numerous extra sessions with their Science teachers in order to perform at this high level. They will now go on to the national finals in early 2019.
The view from the inside
We asked some of the team members to share their experience of the competition.
Ujair, Year 11:
I’ve been participating in the Chemical Olympiad, and now the Top of the Bench Competition, for the past two years, so it seemed likely from the off that I would do it this year too. This year we had very little time to prepare compared to previous years as the whole format of the competition changed, but we used the time we had available wisely, brushing up on our scientific skills and knowledge.
Out of all the sections within the competition, I enjoyed the practical section in the laboratory most, as we got work with real chemicals and apparatus. This round mainly assessed accuracy in measurement and correct usage of apparatus for a specific purpose. Connor and I had to complete a titration, which was marked by a judge from the moment we were given the instructions to when we had finished.
Being part of the team has really broadened my interest and understanding in science, especially Chemistry, as much of what I now know about the sciences came from Mrs Khaleel’s and Mrs Davies’ preparations. I recommend the experience not only to the budding scientists out there but also anyone who wants to improve their scientific understanding ahead of GCSEs.”
Milind, Year 9:
“I wanted to join the team because it’s a fun, social and interactive Chemistry competition. I like science and enjoy working with my peers towards a common goal, so it seemed like an activity that would suit me. I really enjoyed competing against the others in the team in the quick-fire question rounds in our training sessions but the part of the competition I enjoyed most was the passage question. I had to read an extract from a scientific publication and answer questions about it. I found I could transfer the skills I have gained in English and put them to good use here.
Not only has the competition helped my Chemistry knowledge, particularly the periodic table, but I’ve also learned about influential scientists such as Ernest Rutherford and Dmitri Mendeleev. I found this wider research particularly interesting and it’s fuelled my passion for Science in general.”
John, Year 9:
“I wanted to be a part of the competition because my older sister had really enjoyed being on the team when she was my age and it sounded fun. The best bit of the training for me was practising the buzzer rounds, where you went head to head with another team in a quick-fire quiz. Each question you answered right gives you two points and if you get it wrong the other team had a chance to answer for one point. I love the challenge of having to think quickly and express myself clearly under pressure. Being part of the competition has given me the confidence to always go for it and say the answer to a question. I’ve learnt a lot about Chemistry, too.”