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Cardiff University initiative to inspire the scientists of tomorrow

26 September 2014

Life Sciences Challenge

An initiative led by Cardiff University scientists aims to inspire school age children to pursue a career in a STEM related field.

The Life Sciences Challenge aims to give 14-15 year olds the opportunity to meet young scientists working locally in their community. The scientists are early stage career researchers who aim to share with pupils their passion for science and to stimulate their ability to learn and recall scientific concepts through a quiz.

The quiz is held in a head-to-head knockout format and comprises two parallel competitions, one for Welsh speaking schools and the other for English speaking schools. The finals will be held today in the University's flagship scientific research facility, the Hadyn Ellis Building. Each competing team comprises four year 11 students with an interest in science.

The questions in the quiz range from the areas of Biology and Chemistry to Physics and Geology and encourage pupils to gather information across a wide range of topics. Some questions are designed to test pupils' ability to analyse data and apply logic and learned knowledge to unfamiliar concepts.

Anne Davies is a Biology teacher at Whitchurch High School: "Our school has really benefitted from taking part.  It is unusual for an activity to inspire our male scientists for such an extended period, but the format of the competition really brought out their competitive nature. It was also lovely to have the facilitators for each round talking about their own areas of interest as it gave science a more personal face."

In the Welsh speaking competition, Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw and Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe have successfully reached the final round and out of the 20 schools that have taken part in the English speaking competition, Whitchurch High and Llandaff Cathedral School will be competing in the final round.

Emily Colbeck, a Postgraduate Medicine student at Cardiff University helped to organise the Life Sciences Challenge: "It is an incredibly rewarding experience, more so than other engagement activities where you simply deliver a pre-packaged activity; the Life Sciences Challenge really allows you to be innovative and creative with ideas of how to make science exciting, challenging and fun for secondary school age students. The question setting sessions provide a relaxed environment where ideas can be fired around and bounced off researchers from a variety of disciplines. And delivery of the quiz is always exciting and great fun, where you get immediate feedback from the staff and students."

The Life Sciences Challenge has been running at Cardiff University for two years and has had an overall participation of more than 200 pupils across Wales.