Wednesday, 19 December 2018

TOTB International Eliminator 2018

Our annual 'international eliminator' for the Royal Society of Chemistry's Top of the Bench (ToTB) competition was held at the British School of Brussels (BSB) on Saturday 24 November 2018 with teams from Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands taking part. In total 11 teams from 6 schools participated. An exciting afternoon of chemical problem solving ended with the announcement of the 2018 winner of the Keith Price Cup: Team Fluorine from BSB. They will now represent RSC Belgium at the TOTB grand final in the UK in 2019.

This year the competition was even closer than normal with a very, very close finish between team Fluorine and team Oxygen from St George's International School in Luxembourg.

Wining formula
The teams completed individual written question papers and then enjoyed a challenging team Practical Problem Solving Exercise. As usual both the 'hands-on' practical and the paper-based component were developed by our resident competition guru, Rita Woodward. The competition was designed to really test the teams’ chemistry knowledge and problem-solving abilities and (hopefully) encourage young talented chemical scientists to consider further education and careers in Chemistry.

The individual scores from the written paper were added together for each team with the placings from the practical session to give an overall score.

Members of the winning Fluorine team (pictured above) received our TOTB Keith Price Cup as well as some RSC goodies. All the student participants will receive a certificate.

Our huge thanks our committee judges Bob Crichton and Julie Tuppeny, and to all the teachers and other volunteers involved in preparing and organising the event, in particular Helen and William Darnley, Jane Downing, David Douheret and Greg Koc from BSB, and, of course, Rita.

TOTB 2018 line-up

The full list of participating teams for our 2018 competition was:

Lithium - European School Brussels 4 (Laeken)
Sulfur - European School Brussels 4 (Laeken)
Bromine - European School Brussels 2 (Woluwe)
Magnesium - European School Brussels 2 (Woluwe)
Vanandium - International School of Flanders (Rhode St Genese)
Copper - British School of Brussels (Tervuren)
Fluorine - British School of Brussels (Tervuren)
Chromium - United World Colleges (Maastricht)
Nitrogen -  United World Colleges (Maastricht)
Calcium - St Georges International School (Luxembourg)
Oxygen - St Georges International School (Luxembourg)

The TOTB Finals will take place in the UK on 9 March 2019 at the University of Birmingham and RSC Belgium will sponsor the travel arrangements for our winning team. The RSC Belgium team is usually the only competing school team not based in the British Isles.

Our next TOTB Eliminator Round will take place in Q4 2019. Get your school involved!

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

More curling in Kent

On our second visit to England's only curling rink RSC Belgium has recorded a famous victory! Our return visit to the RSC Kent organised event at Fenton's curling rink near Tunbridge Wells was on Saturday 8 December and victory was secured with the final stone.

RSC Kent local section have been holding an annual festive curling event for a number of years and invited RSC Belgium to participate for the first time in 2017. The invite was repeated this year.

This year's RSC team consisted of section chairman Tim Reynolds (pictured 'in action' below), recent ex-section secretary Becki Scott (now a resident of Kent), Helen Lee (Mrs Chairman), Antony Lee Reynolds (Chairman's son) and two locally recruited 'ringers' (friends of the chairman) Sally Wellsteed and Richard Hucker (also pictured below).

Curling has been an Olympic Winter sport since 1988 and is one of the few events everyone can try. It is fair to say that curling is a game that is easy to play, but may take several lifetimes to master... however it was great fun and RSC Belgium participants aim to return again!

The game is suitable for young and old, and can be played as a social or competitive sport. As England's only dedicated ice curling rink, Fenton’s three lanes offer a unique opportunity for people to give curling a go or just meet up for some fun. And there was very little slipping over thanks to the special 'sticky' shoes supplied by the venue.

Warm welcome
The Kent section have been organising a curling event for a few years now and the main protagonist, Dave Alker, has seen the event grow and grow in recent years. For 2018 demand was such that he had booked three two-hour sessions. A fine lunch of Lasagna and salad followed by Lemon Drizzle cake was included and the rink has its own cash bar too.

Participants were a mixture of ‘regulars’ i.e. those who had embarrassed themselves on the rink in previous years, and newcomers. The participants ranged from 18 to 80 and included RSC members, guests and partners as well as ex-RSC staff members and, of course, our Belgian contingent. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Dave and the Kent section are already preparing for the 2019 event with the venue provisionally booked for Saturday 30 November - appropriately on St. Andrews Day. See you there?

Cheers to CO2

On the evening of Thursday 29 November RSC Belgium was delighted to welcome Dr César Alejandro Urbina Blanco from Ghent University to St. John’s International School in Waterloo to talk to us about some fascinating developments in the chemistry of using carbon dioxide (CO2) as a chemical feedstock. César is currently working as a Post Doctoral Researcher in the Laboratory for Chemical Technology at Ghent on sustainable chemistry and the utilisation of CO2.

César told the story of that little molecule responsible for the bubbles in your fizzy drink, which is also the main chemical culprit responsible for global warming and climate change. He described how CO2 is all around us, how we produce it directly or indirectly every time we switch on a lamp, buy a product or even breathe! Using fossil fuel for energy and as the main feedstock for the chemical industry has caused the release of unsustainable amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.

So how do we solve the global CO2 problem without compromising our lifestyle? Chemistry, of course! César outlined the many ways in which chemists are now looking to turn CO2 back into valuable products from fuel to foam for mattresses.

Cesar is a passionate chemist and has been identified as a future leader by the American Chemistry Society. He gave an impassioned speech at the Science March in Brussels last year. A native of Venezuela, César studied Chemistry in Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas including a final year project at The Institute of Chemistry of Organometallic Compounds in Florence, Italy under supervision of Prof. Maurizio Peruzzini.

He completed his PhD in Organometallic Chemistry and Catalysis at the University of St Andrews in Scotland where he worked on the development of commercial olefin metathesis catalysts under supervision of Prof. Steve Nolan – now also at Ghent. César then moved as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the field of Green Chemistry to RWTH Aachen University in Germany with Prof. Walter Leiner and Jürgen Klankermayer, before coming to Belgium.