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RSC Schools’ Analyst Competition

The Chemistry Department were busy on Monday 5.6.23 and Tuesday 6.6.23 as fifteen year 13 pupils participated in the RSC Schools’ Analyst Competition. This Practical Challenge is aimed at students in their first year of study of the A-level Chemistry course and provides an opportunity for developing team-work and problem-solving skills, in addition to demonstrating chemistry knowledge linking to curricular content.

The context of the competition this year was that the students were analytical chemistry employed to investigate some unpleasant goings on at the Grand Baking Competition. The judges at the competition, Peter Rotherham and Margaret Cherry, had whittled the contestants down to the final three: Karen, a classic home baker, Toby, who had impressed with his extravagant and flamboyant bakes and Gordon, a passionate vegan baker. However, the day of the final had been thrown into chaos with sabotage to the bakers’ ingredients and the discovery of a menacing note. In teams of three the pupils had to carry out a range of tests to identify 9 white powders from the pantry, which had been ransacked and labels removed from all the jars of general ingredients. They had to analyse, by titration, dried samples from 3 Victoria Sponge cakes to determine the % bicarbonate of soda - a raising agent commonly used in baking cakes. Finally, they had to use thin-layer chromatography to analyse the ink from the menacing note and compare to three different black markers.

The pupils will have to wait until the end of June to discover who the saboteur was: Karen, Toby, Gordon or even one of the two judges Peter or Margaret? The pupils spent 4 hours in the lab instead of out in the sunshine but thoroughly enjoyed the practical work (and the ice-cream provided by Mrs Millar afterwards!). Thanks must go to the Royal Society of Chemistry for organising the competition and providing the resources.

#rscsac23, @roysocchem, @doctorgraeme.

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