Last week, year 10 students Ieuan Davies, Caitlin Langstone, Emily Prewett and Megan Rees, reached the national final of the Life Sciences Challenge. This annual competition consists of a quiz set by PhD students and researchers at the Cardiff University School of Medicine for KS4 students to test their knowledge and understanding of medical sciences. The Y Pant team were narrowly beaten in the final by Whitchurch High School, but we’re very proud of the way in which they represented the school. Mrs Mitchell, Head of Science, described the competition as “like watching University Challenge” – the standard was that high!
On the afternoon of Sunday the 10th of July, we boarded a coach to London. We were to spend a week at a university with officials at NASA and former astronauts; the opportunity felt rather surreal. After a 4 hour journey, we arrived at ‘Moonraker Point’; student accommodation situated near Guy’s Campus, King’s College London.
It was here that we were designated our flat numbers and had an opportunity to socialise with other pupils undertaking the course. Many of the students were from South Wales but there were also international students from India, Spain and France. After an introduction to the programme and a visit to a restaurant, we settled down in preparation for the days ahead.
Introductions and morning sessions were held by Sarah Murray- Assistant Chief of EVA, Robotics and Crew Systems at NASA. The main aim of the week was to design and propose ideas for an experiment, with the best idea being launched into space and carried out by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Together with our groups, the ‘Mission Discovery ‘ team set us tasks and challenges that served to test and refine a number of key skills. Time was allocated to independently discuss and develop ideas for our experiments. To design our experiment we also had to follow a set of criteria and constraints that included cost, size, and the limitation of interaction with the experiment by the astronauts; due to the importance of their duties elsewhere. Coping with these limitations involved using numeracy skills and allowed us the opportunity to learn how to budget. We also had to pro-actively engage with our groups regarding any identifiable changes that could be made to the experiments, following new information we were given each day.
Additionally, throughout the days, we were given lectures illustrating how space exploration benefits lives on Earth and the effect of micro-gravity on the body. Amongst a number of high class lecturers were top professionals; including Professor Steve Harridge, Professor of Human and Applied Physiology and Dr. Julie Keeble, a lecturer in Pharmacology.
We also heard from Mike Foale CBE- Former Astronaut and International Space Station Commander. His stories and escapades- including a near-fatal collision while aboard the Russian space station ‘Mir’- emphasised the NASA ‘you can do it’ spirit. His journey to becoming an incredibly successful astronaut conveyed how best to achieve dreams and ambitions, and also provided us with information that was vital when developing our experiments. In the evenings we had the opportunity to dine in local restaurants, and also to take in the sights of the sprawling city. Places of note included Tower Bridge and the London Eye; equally as spectacular in the darkness as the daylight.
After a great deal of research and preparation, our experiment ideas were finalised in time for the last day, Friday the 15th. They consisted of ‘The growth of kelp in microgravity conditions’, along with ‘The effectiveness of different types of fungicide in killing the magnaporthe oryzae fungus in microgravity’ and were to be presented to a panel of judges- including senior lectures from King’s College London and Mike Foale himself- if we were both to reach the final . Before this, we both had to face fierce competition from a number of other groups, each with incredibly in depth ideas and reasoning. Both our groups passed through the heats and entered into the final. We were required to give an 8 minute presentation in front of the panel of judges and over 65 pupils from around the world. In the end, we finished as finalists- losing out only narrowly to a team that focused on the growth of mycobacteria. Despite this, the experience was extremely enlightening; we developed presentation and team building skills that will no doubt benefit us highly in the future.
With regards to going to university, a relatively close prospect, it did indeed aid in ideas for future plans and possibly job prospects. The sheer amount of topics and skills that were developed will hopefully prove to be a positive addition to any career that we choose to follow- not only restricted to the region of astrophysics and space travel.
-Noah Evans and Daniel Schoen, Year 12
More able and talented scientists visited the British Science Festival in Swansea last week and attended the fireworks lecture.
Recently I attended the fireworks trip to the Swansea museum for British science week. Before the trip most of us were confident we knew a lot about fireworks however we were thoroughly disproved. We found out about containing the gunpowder makes the bang. So if you contain gunpowder in a small paper tube and insert that into a large metal cylinder with an open top you will feel the shock wave with a loud bang when the paper explodes. My favourite firework was the sparkling fountain because it was very energetic and not to loud. On the whole it was a great trip.
Harriet Kehl, year 9
Pupils at Y Pant are preparing to become space biologists and embark on a voyage of discovery by growing seeds that have been into space. In September, 2kg of rocket seeds were flown to the International Space Station (ISS) on Soyuz 44S where they will spend several months in microgravity before returning to Earth in March 2016. The seeds have been sent as part of Rocket Science, an educational project launched by the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and the UK Space Agency. Y Pant is one of a number of schools to receive a packet of 100 seeds from space, which they will grow alongside seeds that haven’t been to space and measure the differences over seven weeks. The pupils won’t know which seed packet contains which seeds until all results have been collected by the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and analysed by professional biostatisticians. The out-of-this-world, nationwide science experiment will enable the pupils to think more about how we could preserve human life on another planet in the future, what astronauts need to survive long-term missions in space and the difficulties surrounding growing fresh food in challenging climates. Rocket Science is just one educational project from a programme developed by the UK Space Agency to celebrate British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the ISS and inspire young people to look into careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, including horticulture.
So far the pupils have dried the soil ready for the seeds.
Follow the project on Twitter: @RHSSchools #RocketScience
Rhodri Poacher in year 13 must be getting used to the limelight now. This week he was invited to the Welsh Government Conference to talk about his Duje of Edinburgh’s Award experience.
Stephanie Price, the DofE Director for Wales sent us this glowing report.
He did a fantastic job and was a great ambassador for the DofE. The Welsh Government conference was attended by around 100 youth work professionals including representatives from all across Wales. There were keynote speeches from The Deputy Minister for Technology and Skills , Julie James AM, Sally Holland The Children’s Commissioner for Wales and Professor Graham Donaldson , the author of the new Curriculum for Schools in Wales.
Rhodri was joined by Tilly Hall, a Gold Award holder from the Vale of Glamorgan, on a young person’s panel. He addressed the whole conference talking about his DofE experiences and responded to a range of questions from the audience. Rhodri gave a very mature performance and spoke very honestly and passionately.
As is often the case at these events the young peoples’ input was the highlight of the day!
Thank you for allowing him to attend it was a pleasure to have him as part of the DofE Wales team.
Year 10 More Able and Talented scientists have been taking part in a Science Quiz against other schools this year. One team— comprising Emily Prewett, Caitlin Langstone, Ieuan Davies and Megan Rees—have not only made it through to the quarter final but were also the top scoring team overall in the preliminary round!
Their next event is against St. lltyd’s School in Cardiff on 22nd June.
Last week, a number of students in year 10 and 11 attended a conference in the St. David’s Hotel organised by PiXL. Daniel Schoen in year 11 has written this review of the event.
‘Getting into the top universities’ was the main aim of the conference that I, along with a group of Year 10 and 11 students, attended on February 29th. Establishments such as Oxford, Cambridge and King’s College appeared to me as places that were unreachable; only accessible to the social elite. Coming from a comprehensive school nestled in the country borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf, even the idea of crossing the Severn Bridge to attend university seemed daunting. When I was notified about the opportunity of attending the event, I passed it off. I possessed several misconceptions about these reported ‘Russell Group Universities’, and never felt that I had an iota of chance when it came to applying for one of them.
After a short bus ride to the capital, we approached Saint David’s Hotel in all its splendour. After being presented with booklets to further enforce the information given, we were ushered into a conference room in the ‘Roald Dahl Suite’; overlooking the shimmering waters of Cardiff Bay. Our welcome was a warm one, we were invited to light refreshments before other schools arrived and the conference was upon us. As expected, many public schools arrived at the conference. It was certainly a proud moment for Y Pant, being one of the few state schools in attendance, and having a sizable group of pupils at the conference. Peter Rawling- the proclaimed Russell Group University ‘guru’- took the role as the admissions lecturer, he outlined the purpose of the conferences along with using his wealth of knowledge and experience to provide us with inspiration and advice for applying for the top universities. He then introduced us to a guest speaker, Ian McConnachie; a former student from the University of Oxford. As a former student, he was able to provide us with accounts that were engaging and was quick to dispel the notion that top universities like Oxford were reserved only for the wealthy and the upper class. He shed light upon his personal experiences while studying Maths at Oxford and also outlined information regarding Cambridge. Unfortunately, the second guest speaker was unable to attend; determined not to let these unforeseen circumstances overturn this event, Rawling spoke about competitions for applications for university and the courses available to study. He inspired us to create a portfolio in order to record our achievements and perform extra reading around subjects we were interested in, known ‘Super-Curricular activities’. It was said that these would enhance and reinforce our love for the subjects we were interested in.
Overall, despite the fact that it was slightly overwhelming at first, the conference really made me aware of the options available to me after KS5. It has inspired me to further research topics that interest me and has improved my self-esteem. I now feel that if I put the work in, I will be able to access the best possible route of education that will help me in later life. Although I am not yet certain of my future plans, the conference certainly drew me into the field of biology and I am interested in finding out more about areas of specialisation such as marine biology. My peers were also helped greatly, after attending the conference some are interested in pursuing careers in Law and in Medicine.
In my opinion, the language day trip was a success and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. The first activity we took part in was the STEM Language Ambassadors Problem Solving. There was a girl from New York who explained why languages were important to study alongside Science and taught us about the top 5 languages in the world (with English being third). Then we went to Routes into Language held by a Turkish man. He talked about how languages are involved in different sorts of jobs such as trading goods with other countries and even in sports. The third activity we attended was something I knew a little about: Spanish fiestas and festivales. We learnt about La Tomatina, El Encierro (the running of the bulls) and Las Fallas (a festival held in Valencia). Finally we had a tour of Cardiff City Football Stadium. Being a football fan I enjoyed this part a lot, especially asking questions and seeing the changing rooms. Out of the whole trip I enjoyed the session where I got to use my Spanish because I was able to use my knowledge to apply to the challenges set. I think the trip was a success and should be run every year and I am extremely thankful that I was chosen to go – I would love to do it all over again!
By Henri Phillips, 8×2
It’s been a busy time in the French department. On Friday 5th February five Year 9 pupils, Mason, Shani, Lauren, Cordelia and Lydia took part in Pupil Language Ambassador training organised by Route into Languages Cymru. Here are just some quotes from the day.
Last Friday we went to City Hall in Cardiff. We took part in a Language Ambassador training day. It was a very fun day learning more about languages in a variety of quizzes. We watched videos which showed us how important it is to take a language and how there is a shortage of people opting for a language in the UK. We were given leaflets and information booklets and learnt only a quarter of the world’s population speak English. We also talked about what we were going to do as language ambassadors to try and encourage more pupils to take a language. It was a great experience to go on a trip like this and I have learnt much more about languages.
I was really pleased that I was chosen to become a Language Ambassador for Y Pant. I thoroughly enjoyed the day learning about France and the French culture. I met pupils from other schools and worked with them doing activities. We learnt about how a language ambassador will support their school by arranging activities and events. We were introduced to students from universities that study French, telling us about their travels and experiences from taking French at GCSE and A levels. I am looking forward to representing my school as a language ambassador.
I think that the Language Ambassador training day was really interesting. I especially enjoyed the part where we learnt about French culture. We also completed a quiz which was fun, as we got to work with our school to answer the questions. I believe that the training day helped me and other pupils enhance our language skills and soon we will be encouraging other students to learn and take languages for their GCSEs.
Monday the 5th of October saw the School heats for the Springboard Future Chef Competition. Eight year 9 pupils took part including Lydia Morgan, Olivia King, Jack King, Courtney Jones, Catrin Grattidge, Ellie Hammacott, Natalie Johns and Ellie Jenkins.
Their brief was to cook a main meal with a budget of £5. They were judged on the balance of the meal including flavours, textures and appearance by Mr Powell, Mrs Lloyd and Miss Knight.
An amazing range of meals was produced and the staff thoroughly enjoyed each one. The standard was exceptional.
Dishes produced ranged from Chilli Con Carne with Garlic Ciabatta & Chicken Tikka with Mint Yoghurt to Pesto Pasta with Bacon and Tomatoes & Garlic Salmon with Asparagus on a bed of pureed Butternut Squash.
After much deliberation the winners were announced as Ellie Jenkins for her home reared Lamb Chops in Rosemary and Red wine Jus with mashed Potato and Carrots; and Courtney Jones with her Garlic Salmon with a crispy skin and Asparagus on a bed of pureed Butternut Squash.
The pupils worked independently for an hour and produced top quality dishes. Mr Powell commented that he enjoys cooking but “I couldn’t cook like that”.
Miss Knight will be accompanying Ellie Jenkins and Courtney Jones to Bridgend College for the regional finals on the 24th November.
We wish the girls the very best of luck.