Friday, 23 November 2012

Higgs attracts Mass!

The fabled Higgs boson certainly attracted a mass of people to the Brel theatre at the British School of Brussels (BSB) on 21 November to hear about the work of Prof. Vincent Lemaitre and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. Well over 70 members of the public and students heard about the theory behind the Higgs boson and the work at CERN that led up to the ‘discovery’ on 4 July this year of a new fundamental particle that is (very probably) the ‘Higgs’.

Prof Vincent Lemaitre is Director of the Centre for Cosmology, Particle Physics and Phenomenology at the Universite Catholique de Louvain (UCL) and is an enthusiastic ambassador for his science and his passion clearly engaged with the audience.

Prof Lemaitre took us through what was effectively a highly condensed but accessible course on particle physics and cosmology – or as he put it the study of the “infinitely big and the infinitely small.” We learned about the ‘Big Bang’ and that – thanks to Einstein’s famous E=mc2 equation - we cannot have mass without energy – however you can have energy without mass. He also pointed out that the most important effect of the Higgs boson was to impart mass to the electron – without it there would be no chemistry and no life as we know it.

Vincent took us through interactions, particles and fields to the work of Robert Brout, Francois Englert and Peter Higgs (two Belgians from ULB and one Brit at Edinburgh University), their establishment of the so-called “symmetry breaking” mechanism in Quantum Field Theory that describes all fundamental interactions of nature and implied the existence of an auxiliary particle came to be known as the Higgs boson and the search for that particle.

He is a collaborator on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in CERN and described its operation, the mechanisms of the CMS detector components and the difficulties in detecting evidence for the Higgs particle.

After the presentation Prof Lemaitre continued an animated question and answer session with a crowd of excited students and others. He was keen to impart that the discovery on 4th July was only the beginning and a good twenty years of further research would be needed to characterise the new particle and realise new physics. But this would be the work of the “next generation of scientists – you!”

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Woluwe win Keith Price Cup

RSC Belgium held its Belgian eliminator heat for the annual RSC Top of the Bench (TOTB) competition on Saturday 17 November at the British School of Brussels (BSB). It was a hard-fought struggle between teams from BSB, the European School II at Woluwe and European School I at Uccle. In a very close finish a team from Woluwe school eventually claimed the Keith Price Cup.

This was the second time that the RSC Belgium's TOTB eliminator has been held as an actual 'head-to-head' competition with a practical element. The seven teams of budding chemists (three from Woluwe, two from BSB and two from Uccle) had to complete a short written test on their individual chemical knowledge and data interpretation skills and then show teamwork and problem-solving abilities in a practical chemical exercise.

This format closely reflects the format of the competition that the winners will face in the final to be held in the UK (probably in London) in spring 2013. As usual Rita Woodward had devised the competition and set the questions.

Close competition
All seven teams consisted of four students aged between 14 and 16 and were accompanied by teachers. The practical aspect of the competition involved a timed reaction involving alka-seltzer tablets and sodium hydroxide. The teams had to determine the correct experimental configuration to neutralise the alkaline solution in 45 seconds - the endpoint of the reaction being monitored by a universal pH indicator.

When teams had worked out their own solution, their efforts were timed by judges Prof. Bob Crichton, Dr. Ian Carson, Dr Becki Scott and Tim Reynolds. Each team had two official 'timed' attempts.

The overall winners were determined by their team placing in both written and practical parts of the 'eliminator'.

The result was very tight with three teams (two from BSB and one from Uccle) tying for runner up position, but the winners were the ‘covalent’ team from the Woluwe European School. The winning teams are pictured above having been presented with the Keith Price Cup by branch chairman Prof Bob Crichton. The team will now represent Belgium in the (inter)national final in the UK in 2013. All the students who took part in the competition will also receive a certificate.

Clearly everyone who took part in the competition had an enjoyable time with both students and teachers very enthusiastic about this more competitive format. RSC Belgium looks forward to an even bigger and better Belgian TOTB eliminator next year.

Our thanks to all the teachers and students who took part in a really fun afternoon of chemistry!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Genes & Prizes

A capacity crowd of over 50 squeezed into the Swoosh Lounge at the British School of Brussels (BSB) to hear Prof Rene Rezsohazy from the Universite Catholique de Louvain consider the question: "Whatever happened to the Gene?". The event on 23 October 2012 was also the occasion for presentation of prizes to the winners of our 2012 Chemistry Challenge competition.

Our second evening event of the Autumn covered the topic of classical genetics with Prof Rene Rezsohazy of the Universite Catholique de Louvain (UCL) (see pictured below on right with section Chairman Bob Crichton).

Prof. Rezsohazy took us on a whistle-stop tour of the development of genetic science and molecular biology via a dozen or more Nobel Prize winners. He started with the founding 'dogma' of Beadle and Tatum of "one gene - one enzyme" and revealed the increasing complexity of structures and interactions that inform our understanding of how genes control development and function.

The discussion and questions continued well after the formal presentation with the aid of drinks and nibbles.

The evening also saw the presentation of certificates and cash prizes to pupils from a variety of local schools who had excelled in our Chemistry Challenge Competition.

Pictured above (left) is overall winner - and recipient of the Keith Price Prize - Ally McDermott from BSB. Details of all prize winners for 2012 and, if you fancy trying your hand, a link to the Challenge papers can be found here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

G4G Three

RSC Belgium took part in the third Greenlight for Girls Day in Brussels on Saturday October 13. The venue was the International School of Brussels in Watermael-Boitsfort. The RSC team had a great time runing three workshops on the theme of culinary chemistry to groups of enthusiastic young scientists.

The RSC Belgium team for the day consisted of (from left to right above) Amourie Prentice, Carolyn Ribes, Becki Scott, Albert Einstein and Rita Woodward with Tim Reynolds behind the camera. Our old friend Peter Casey of Blindseer Productions provided Einstein and the girls had great fun interacting with Albert throughout the day!

Each of the workshops brought together around a dozen young women aged 11 to 15. Most participants were anglophone but the RSC Belgium team was ready and able to work with the girls in French and Dutch too. Each of the students got to do a range of experiments during the 45 minute sessions including some cheese-making.

Other chemical based workshops offered during the day included sessions on cosmetics and fragrances, plastics and experiments from the hit TV series the 'Big Bang Theory'. Other workshops focused on IT, physics, engineering and biotechnology.

All the 250 - 300 young ladies who attended the day had a great time and took back some fantastic memories, a goody bag and their own personalised labcoat - provided this year by IT giant Google.

About G4G
The The Greenlight for Girls organisation is a Brussels-based, international non-profit organization that works to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to girls of all ages and backgrounds. The main aim is to stimulate greater participation of girls, young women and career-age women in STEM-related studies and careers. To achieve this mission, G4G carry out a range of activities around the world, with a special focus on reaching less-advantaged communities.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Chemistry Challenge Competition 2012

The results of the RSC Belgium Chemistry Challenge 2012 have been announced and the talented prize winners will be picking up their winnings at the next RSC Belgium event on 23 October. This year we recieved 112 eligible entries to this testing challenge of young people's chemical knowledge and initiative.

The paper is into three sections:

  • A/ A chemistry multiple choice paper
  • B/ A structured questions on chemistry, and
  • C/ A 'Thinking Matters' paper that is not chemistry based

And the top results were as follows:

Section A

  • First - Ally McDermott (BSB) and Riccardo Terzi (Woluwe EEII)
  • Second - Stefano Vianella (Woluwe EEII)
  • Third - Jaewar Bahr (ISB), Alexander Ashley (BSB), Callum Scott (BSB)

Section B

  • First - Madhavi Jha (ISB)
  • Second - Ciaren Daly (ISB), Yoon-Mok Yang (ISB), Ally McDermot (BSB), Bartosz Animucki (Uccle EEI)
  • Third - Ayako Fujihara (BSB)

Section C

  • First - Alexander Ashley (BSB)
  • Second - Gavin Kiely (Woluwe EEII)
  • Third - Stefano Vianello (Woluwe EEII)

Ally McDermot also recieves the Keith Price Prize for best overall score in sections A and B. First prize winners recieve €50, second €25 and third places €10 with the winner of the Keith Price Prize recieving an additional €100. Well done to everyone that took part! We will be running the Challenge again in 2013.

The Chemistry Challenge competition was devised and compiled by RSC Belgium treasurer Rita Woodward and is open to students from any school in Belgium. The questions are set in English, but may be answered in English, French, Dutch or German.

The competition is open to school students in their penultimate year of High School (usually aged 16 – 17), and consists of a 2 hour written test held in school and designed to demonstrate the participants’ knowledge of chemistry and their ability to think logically.

Try it yoursef!
Now you can test your chemical knowledge and problem solving ability. The 2012 Chemistry Challenge paper can be downloaded here. Tell us how you got on!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Fakes, Forgeries & Forensics

The RSC 2012 Autumn season got off to a great start on September 11 with an interesting and entertaining presentation from Dr. Patrick Degryse from the Centre for Archaeological Sciences at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL).

Entitled 'Fakes, Forgeries & Forensics: Chemistry & Archaeology' Dr. Degryse explained the services and research that his department offer to the world of archaeology to a good audience of members and friends in the cosy atmosphere of Le Chalet Vert in Tervuren.

Much of the work involves isotopic and elemental analysis for provenance studies on items auch as Ancient Egyptian mummies, medieval triptych paintings and (as it turned out) a rather modern reproduction of an Anatolian idol. Dr. Degryse stated that it is very difficult to make an absolute positive statement about the provenance of an article but the work of the department can exclude some sources and narrow down the possibilities.

A specific research focus at KUL is on early glass. One recent PhD student was assigned to collect sand samples from beaches all around the Mediterranean to establish an elemental background reference for determination of the source of ancient glass samples.

Obviously when examining precious ancient objects non-destructive testing is preffered and one technique (X-ray fluorescence - XRF) was demonstrated on a contemporary source! Apparently the UK pound sterling is not as sound as one might hope with perhaps 3% or more of the coinage in circulation being forged. This has led to calls from international monetary authorities for the UK to withdraw and re mint the entire stock. The euro on the other hand is - at least on the forgery front - very sound due to a special alloy involved in its fabrication that makes it very hard to fake.

However, despite the best efforts of Patrick and his colleague RSC Belgium exec member Becki Scott we were unable to find any fake pound coins amongst the 30 odd sample size provided by our audience. The coins were analysed using a portable XRF device which seemed to have been modelled on a Star Trek phazer.

Dr. Patrick Degryse (right), Dr. Becki Scott and RSC Belgium chairman Prof. Bob Crichton are pictured with the 'XRF phazer' above.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Sunday in Tervuren

On Sunday 10 June RSC Belgium members and friends had a great day out in Tervuren. The day included a visit to the African Museum (in particular its underground vaults), a light lunch and a fascinating trip around Tom Frantzen's Sculpture Garden. Tom's secret garden was very much the highlight of the trip and we highly recommend it. Some pictures from the day are published below.

The morning started out at the African Museum on Leuvensesteenweg, Tervuren. The museum will soon be shutting for three years in order to undertake a major refurbishment. Our visit included a trip around the underground storage areas that are usually closed to the public including this elephant's graveyard (below).

The museum is open until the end of August so if you couldn't make it in June you have until 31 August to grab a ‘last chance to see’ visit.

Following a light lunch at Het Bootjeshuis Café at the town end of the Tervuren Park we made our way to Tom Frantzen’s Sculpture Garden and Workshop in Duisburg.

Garden of delight
Tom Frantzen is a very well known Belgian sculptor responsible for many, often animal-based, installations in Belgium and around the world. He is the creator of the Bandundu Water Jazz Band water feature at the end of Avenue Tervuren and Tom gave us an extended guided tour around his private 'garden of delight'.

In his workshop Tom (above) showed us work in progress and talked about his techniques and the various issues involved in constructing public artwork.

 The entrance to the garden itself is guarded by a majestic Buddha (above) - with some binoculars!

Tom often works with water features and always with a sense of humour.

His extensive 'back garden' is full of sculptures - almost all made by cast metal.

Everyone was taking photos - including some of the sculptures!

Having spent well over two hours in the garden we could easily have spent more time browsing around the grounds. Many thanks to Tom for his time and to Rita Woodward for arranging a truly great day out in Tervuren.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

RSC ready for the Olympics

In time for the London 2012 Olympic Games the Royal Society of Chemistry has launched a new Chemistry in the Olympics website and a global experiment to engage students with the chemistry behind the Olympics. The website features educational resources for teachers and students to explore the chemistry behind sport.

Alistair Brownlee, twice world champion triathlete and a former chemistry student, introduces the global experiment and talks about the role chemistry played in his own education and how chemistry is vital to his sport.

The RSC is promoting the global experiment to school students around the world and participants from the UK, USA and New Zealand have already been involved - so why not take a look and have a go yourself?

The experiment aims to test the effects of sports drinks on athletic performance and encourages participation from students of all ages. The experiment and activities can be completed at school in groups or individually at home. Particpants are asked to:

  • Run 100 metres after consuming either a sports drink or water
  • Test the effects of sports drinks on physical performance
  • Anaylse the data and discuss the role of chemistry in sports drinks
  • Upload their results and location to an interactive map to compare with students all over the world

The RSC have formulated a generic sports drink recipe including sugar-free squash, water, salt and sugar. Watch the new Global Experiment video where a class of primary students show ho wthey did the experiment.

Children in school and at home are encouraged to take part and upload their results before the start of this year's London Olympics on 27th July.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

TOTB 2012 - The Inside Story

Thanks to Giulia Greed from the European School Brussels II in Woluwe for writing up her Top of the Bench (TOTB) experience for us.

The Scientists (Giulia, Caitriona, Nora, and Thomas - see above) met up with Mrs Deegan at around midday, at Gare du Midi, where we would take the Eurostar to London. Once we had arrived in London, Mrs D bought us underground tickets, and we left for our hotel, which was directly opposite Hyde Park.

We settled in, had a short rest, then we set off again - to Leicester square, to buy tickets for the theatre. We looked at the available shows, and we decided on one of them. Mrs D returned from the ticket booth, clutching the Wicked tickets. The Scientists were all getting hungry, so we went for a meal near Covent Garden, then for an ice cream. Next, we went to the theatre to see Wicked, which was really good. Afterwards, we took the Underground back to the hotel, and then went to sleep.

The next morning, we had breakfast, got ready, then we then left the hotel and set off walking through Hyde Park, to Imperial College (where the competition was being held). While we were walking, Mrs D tested the Scientists and talked to us on chemistry.

Brussels crew
Once we were at Imperial, we were talked through the safety announcements, and soon afterwards we were ushered into a lecture hall, where we would be having the written exam. It only lasted half an hour, then we all had a snack.

Next, was the practical team exam, so we went into the labs. The judges explained: the envelope on the table contained the first challenge. The papers on the side made up the second challenge. Everything we needed was in our workspace. We were given lab coats and gloves. We were known to the judges as “the Brussels crew”.

After the first challenge, we had a one minute break. Then the judges described the second challenge. Both challenges went well. After that we ate lunch, followed by a short break, and then the scientists attended a short lecture on the chemistry in mobile phones.

Next: the award ceremony. Our team came 14th out of 30 - a result we were very pleased with!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Woluwe at TOTB Final

RSC Belgium was represented at the RSC's Top of the Bench (TOTB) final on 31 March by European School Brussels II at Woluwe (see team photo below). The winners of our own 'national' competition and holders of the Keith Price Cup had a great time at Imperial College London and secured an excellent 'mid-table' result.

"The team came 15th out of around 30 competing schools," reported Julie Deegan, the team's teacher and head of chemistry at Woluwe. "The higher placed teams were all prestigious UK grammar or private schools."

In the highly competitive final each student had to sit an individual written test designed by the RSC and together each team carried out two practical activities: one set by RSC and the other by Imperial College staff.

"The students thought the written test was very traditional and GCSE-like," says Julie. "Questions about the Haber and Contact process, and others about recalling the chemical symbols for less well-known elements were not so popular with our students!"

Practical posers
This year's RSC Belgium eliminator had, for the first time, included a practical element, so the problem-solving laboratory element of the final was not a surprise to the Woluwe team. "The practical task was in two parts," continues Julie. "The first to identify three unknown liquids or solutions using no additional reagents. The second part was a titration, for which the older students had to take a leading role."

The TOTB Final practical session in full swing (image copyright © michele panzeri 2012).

Chemistry Challenge
The next major schools' activity for RSC Belgium is about to commence: the Chemistry Challenge. The papers are being printed for distribution to participating schools. This individual chemistry puzzler is open to 16-17 year old students and we hope to involve well over 100 students in this year's competition.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Students Open-mouthed at Chemistry Spectacular

Students from four schools in and around Brussels were left open-mouthed as Prof István Markó and his assistant Fabio Lucaccioni performed their chemistry demonstration lecture “Chemistry and Energy – a Tasty Marriage” at the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) site in Woluwe, Brussels on Tuesday March 20th. Two lectures were organised on the day by the RSC Belgium Section in cooperation with Scienceinfuse based at the UCL main campus at Louvain-la-Neuve.

The students, from St. Johns International School, Waterloo, the Verseau International School at Bierges, the Institut Maris Stella at Laeken and the European School Brussels II at Woluwe watched enthralled as Prof. Markó worked through over an hour of about 20 reactions involving flames, colour changes and explosions.

Following Prof. Markó’s advice the students kept their mouths open to equalise the pressure in their ears during the more substantial bangs. A volcano spluttered, photo flash bulbs were simulated, the heat from a ball of flame caused by burning hydrogen in a balloon was felt by the students in the front rows (see above), and a black serpent rose out of a beaker containing only sugar and battery acid. The students oohed and aah’d as blue luminescence spread downwards in a glass tube demonstrating energy generated in a cold reaction.

Enthusiastic response
Prof. Markó engaged his audience with commentary on the chemistry behind the reactions, and his steady repartee – untrammelled by current notions of political correctness – aimed to challenge their ideas and make them think ‘outside the box’. By the end of the lecture though, he had smoke coming out of his nostrils - from eating a Belgian waffle dipped in liquid nitrogen!

After the event, one teacher commented: “Our students were full of enthusiasm and excitement when they got back to school and enjoyed every aspect of the lecture”.

The demo lecture was repeated to a French-speaking schools audience at UCL at Louvain-la-Neuve on Thursday March 22nd in the afternoon and to a public audience on that evening. On both occasions the 500 capacity auditorium was packed. The total audience for all four shows was in excess of 1200.

TOTB cup presented
At the start of the afternoon lecture at Woluwe the winning team in this year’s RSC Belgium local ‘national’ eliminator of the RSC Top of the Bench (TOTB) Competition was presented with the Keith Price Cup. The winning team from European School Brussels II at Woluwe are pictured below with their teacher Julie Deegan and RSC Belgium Section Chairman Prof. Bob Crichton.

The Woluwe team will represent RSC Belgium at the RSC UK final of TOTB at Imperial College London that takes place on Saturday 31 March. We wish the team good luck for the competition and will report on how they get on in London.

The RSC Belgium TOTB Cup has renamed as the Keith Price Cup last year in honour of our first Chairman and principal "founding father" of the section.

A complete list of the experiments performed during our 2012 demonstration lectures is available on request from RSC Belgium’s Schools Coordinator Rita Woodward.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Working for a World Free of Chemical Weapons

RSC Belgium was honoured to welcome the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü on the evening of 15 March. The Ambassador addressed a large audience of members and friends of the section at the Royal African Museum in Tervuren.

His Excellency Ahmet Üzümcü (pictured left, above with RSC Belgium chairman Prof. Bob Crichton) was appointed Director-General of OPCW in December 2009. Immediately prior to this appointment he served as the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Turkey to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Ambassador Üzümcü is a career diplomat with vast experience in multilateral diplomacy. He has represented Turkey at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Council, the Conference on Disarmament, the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva. He has considerable experience in disarmament-related diplomacy, political-military affairs, disarmament and proliferation issues. He held the post of Ambassador of Turkey to Israel from 1999 to 2002.

Chemistry for peace
Ambassador Üzümcü described the rationale for and operation of OPCW and the Convention on Chemical Weapons. Tremendous progress has been made in the destruction of the vast majority of chemical weapon stockpiles around the world. However vigilence is still required to finally eliminate this threat and ensure such weapons do not reappear in the hands of terrorists or new nation states.

"A total ban on chemical weapons is no small achievement for the international community," concluded Ambassador Üzümcü. "We will continue to endeavour to strengthen this norm in order to keep our future generations safe from this scourge which has in the past brought death and untold suffering to those that became victims."

"My message to you is to join this endeavour; to spread the word. To use your considerable expertise, influence and good will to ensure that the norms and values that we share are more widely known and supported. To guarantee through your work with students and apprentices that the chemist will always work for the betterment of the community and never use his knowledge and skills to bring harm to fellow human beings."

OPCW is working with the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry to promote the services of chemistry to society, international peace and security.

The full text of the Ambassador's speech can be found here.

Following the Ambassador's talk an extended question and answer ranged over the nature of chemical weapons, current threats to peace and environmental legacy issues.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Chemistry Challenge 2012 launched

Following a small pilot run in 2010 and an extremely successful full run in 2011, the RSC Belgium Section is happy to announce the launch of its Schools Chemistry Challenge 2012.

The Chemistry Challenge competition is open to students from any school in Belgium, and we would like to make this year the biggest and best Chemistry Challenge yet!

Details of the 2012 competition format are given below. The questions will be set in English, but may be answered in English, French, Dutch or German.

The competition is open to school students in their penultimate year of High School (usually aged 16 – 17), and consists of a 2 hour written test held in school and designed to demonstrate the participants’ knowledge of chemistry and their ability to think logically. Attractive cash prizes are offered, as well as certificates acknowledging participation.

From previous experience we have found that students feel that participation is a valuable ‘plus point’ when completing University application forms, clearly demonstrating an ‘extra curricula’ interest in a science subject.

A real tester
This paper-based test of knowledge and initiative was devised by RSC member Rita Woodward and is split into three sections:
  • A/ a chemistry multiple choice paper
  • B/ structured questions on chemistry, and
  • C/ a 'Thinking Matters' paper that is not chemistry based

In 2011, almost 80 students participated and RSC Belgium awarded cash prizes to top performers in each section with the winners drawn from the British School of Brussels (BSB), International School of Brussels (ISB), St. Johns International School and the European Schools at Ixelles and Uccle. Some of the winners are pictured recieving their awards and certificates from section chair Prof. Bob Crichton above.

Keith Price Prize
The best overall entry in the two chemistry sections was from Krithika Swaminathan (pictured left) a student at St. Johns school. Krithika was the first recipient of the Keith Price Prize established in memory of one of RSC Belgium's founding members who died earlier this year.

For more information on the 2012 RSC Belgium Chemistry Challenge, please contact our Challenge coordinator Rita Woodward. Further details of the Challenge Rules are outlined below.

Chemistry Challenge 2012 - The rules
The Competition is open to students:
  • who are currently studying Chemistry in their penultimate year in High School eg AS, IB or ES Bacc
  • who enjoy using both chemistry and logic to solve exercises and puzzles, and
  • who have a good grasp of the principles and a thorough knowledge of the chemistry they have studied
The challenge is:
  • One written 2 hour paper taken under examination conditions in school in May/June 2012
Other information:
  • Calculators are allowed - but not graphical or programmable
  • Maximum total mark will be 120
  • All questions for sections A and B (worth 90 marks) on chemistry will be compulsory
  • For Section C (worth 30 marks) on logic there will be a choice of questions. The questions will test the student's ability to handle logic, verbal comprehension and symbolic knowledge and to think creatively
  • For 2012 the Chemistry Challenge Competition questions will be available in English. Teachers are free to translate the questions. Candidates may answer in Dutch, English, French or German
  • For each of the Sections A, B and C all candidates will receive a Certificate: Gold or Silver or Bronze
  • In each section, the highest score will receive a prize of €50, second highest €25, and third highest €10
  • In addition, the highest total score from Sections A + B will receive “The Keith Price Prize” of €100
In the event of a tie for the Keith Price Prize, scores from Section C will be used to select the final winner.

We hope for a record entry in 2012 with some excellent students testing their knowledge and pitting their brains against those of their peers.

Monday, 13 February 2012

More resources, more prizes

More news on new chemistry resources for teachers has come our way from European Schoolnet. The "Chemistry: all about you" project was developed by European Schoolnet on behalf of the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) and is aimed at secondary schools teachers.

"Chemistry: all about you" is a project to teach chemistry in a fun and innovative way. It includes an amazing video about chemistry in our life and a teachers' guidelines to plan and support lessons using the video developed by the EPCA. The Teachers' guidelines and the video are available in French, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, Croatian and Hungarian in addition to English.

The “Chemistry: all about you” team are keen to receive any feedback on the project that you may have on the content and in particular the teachers' guidelines.

Bryson Prize
The RSC Bill Bryson Prize is designed to encourage and recognise clear science ommunication in schools and colleges. The prize is supported by well-known writer and commentator Bill Bryson (right) who is also involved with the judging process.

For 2012 the Bill Bryson Prize offers the chance to welcome the Olympics to the UK. To support this major event the 2012 competition theme will be "Science and Sport”, to celebrate the major role that science plays in supporting sport around the world.

The Prize is open to students aged 5-18 and entries can be submitted in all formats, from posters to power points to puzzles! The competition will be judged in three categories, primary school, secondary school and International (non-UK) school, with both individual and group entries accepted. The best entries from each category will receive a cash prize of £500 for their institution, and £100 for the winning students – so well worth it!

The closing date for entries is 31 March 2012 and more information including downloadable application forms can be found on the RSC website .

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

LearnChemistry with RSC

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has just launched a comprehensive online site dedicated to chemistry education. And it is open to all.

The RSC's LearnChemistry website brings together hundreds of resources, a place to share ideas and support for both teachers and students.

The RSC has developed a huge range of educational resources and the LearnChemistry initiative brings them together in one place to make them easily accessible and searchable.

The site also takes a throughly modern approach to teaching using videos, simulations and interactive games to capture students attention and bring the fascination of chemistry into the classroom or home setting.

Talk chemistry
The site features the 'Talk Chemistry' area which provides teachers with a platform to talk about curriculum issues, share news and opinions.

The site also includes Gridlocks - a interactive chemistry game based on the Sudoku concept and a set of videos 'Faces of Chemistry' developed with industrial partners such as Johnson Matthey, Procter & Gamble and Syngenta. In addition the RSC has relaunched and augmented its Visual Elements Periodic Table (see below) to coincide with the LearnChemistry launch.

Content will be continuously added to the site. For example in March the RSC will launch its 2012 Olympic-themed chemistry and sport site. This will examine the role chemistry plays in every sport from archery to aerobics.

The RSC sees LearnChemistry as a community-led site so it is encouraging feedback and input from teachers and students. So why not take a look at LearnChemistry and help us create a new generation of people excited by chemistry.

Science in School
Another web-based resource that will be of interest is 'Science in School' - the European journal for science teachers. It covers not only biology, physics and chemistry, but also earth sciences, engineering and medicine, highlighting the best in teaching and cutting-edge research, and focusing on interdisciplinary work. The contents include teaching materials, recent discoveries in science, education projects, interviews with young scientists and inspiring teachers, and much more.

'Science in School' is freely available. Online articles are published in many European languages and an English-language print version is distributed across Europe. Originally supported by the European Commission, the journal is published and funded by EIROforum, a partnership between eight of Europe’s largest intergovernmental research organisations including including CERN, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).

European school teachers are invited to help by:
• Submitting articles for publication
• Joining the referee panel and helping to decide which articles to publish
• Reviewing books and other resources for teachers
• Translating articles from English into their native languages.

To subscribe, learn more about the journal or read all the articles visit the Science in School website.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

RSC Belgium AGM 2012

The Belgium section's Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Annual Dinner took place on Friday January 13th at the Restaurant Le Crabe Fantome in Watermael-Boisfort.

The AGM business was transacted swiftly with reports received from 2011 section secretary Ian Carson and Treasurer Rita Woodward.

During International Year of Chemistry 2011 RSC Belgium had been extremely active: organising 12 events directly and participating in the organisation of a further five. The two Cafe Chimiques on Climate Change and GMOs and the Landmark Ceremony for Kekule in Ghent represented new highs for the section. Details of all events can be found in articles published on this blog throughout 2011. For RSC Belgium IYC2011 had been a great success!

It was noted with sadness that 2011 had also seen the death of Keith Price, who had been instrumental in setting up the section.

Dr Paul Gray had also returned to the UK during 2011 and his significant contributions to the section were also noted. The meeting also extended their congratulations to committee member Laura Yonge who had given birth to her daughter Eloise in October.

Committee Elections
In elections for the section committee Tim Reynolds was appointed secretary, taking over from Ian Carson who becomes an ordinary member of the section committee. All other committee members were in mid-term. One elected committee position remained unfilled. It was decided to seek further co-opted members for the committee.

A dedicated section committee page has been established on this blog listing committee members. In addition a forthcoming events page has been set up.

The meeting reappointed Ralph Palim as auditor. Ralph was thanked for his helpful comments and efficient auditing of our finances once again.

Long service rewarded
The meeting closed at 20h10 and members rejoined partners, colleagues and friends for the section's Annual Dinner.

During the meal Tim Reynolds was presented with a RSC Long Service Award by section chairman Bob Crichton (see above). Long Service Awards are presented to members who have served a total of 10 years on a local section committee and held an officer (chair, treasurer or secretary) position during that time. Tim is returning to the role of secretary for 2012 having held that position for six years during a previous 'stint'.

If members would like a copy of the Secretary's report, the treasurer's report or the financial statements presented at the AGM, please contact section secretary Tim Reynolds.