By Penny Carmichael, on 10 July 2013
-Article by Jane Yates
Combine seventy five year 9 students, some packets of BBQ skewers and boxes of polystyrene balls and what do you get? A room filled with giant models of diamond, graphene and graphite and some creative ideas on the future of materials chemistry.
The 14th of June saw schools from across London taking part in the annual Dux awards, a Department of Education run awards scheme for the recognition of top-performing year 9 students. The achievements of the participating students are reflected in the naming of the awards: dux is Latin for leader. Registered schools selected their brightest and best who got to experience life at a Russell Group university and turn their hand to a series of workshops, lectures and campus activities to give them a flavour of what they could get up to by aiming high.
For some it was the first opportunity to make the structures they’d heard about in the classroom, for others it was an introduction to the world of covalent bonds but everyone had to get their thinking caps on to suggest new materials and applications based on what they’d learnt in the session and that was really the point of the exercise.
Scientists observe what’s around them, work out why it has the properties it does and then try to build on it, alter and change the material to give them novel functionality. The combination of careful study, theoretical rigor and a smattering of creativity is what we all need to get on with the job.