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Top of the Bench Chemistry Competition 2010

by Guest Blogger: STEMPoint 1. February 2010 14:49

Once again the East Midlands Top of the Bench Chemistry Competition was a great success. Top of the Bench is a national competition run by the Royal Society of Chemistry for 14-16 year old students.  This year’s regional final, which allows the winning team to enter the national final, consisted of teams of students, two from year 9, one from year 10 and one from year 11 from schools across the region. The University of Derby hosted the event for the first time on Saturday 30th January 2010 under the guidance of Alan-Shaun Wilkinson and opened by Professor John Coyne, the University’s Vice-Chancellor.

This years contest involved a gruelling 30 minute quiz followed by a tough and exciting practical challenge. The aim of the challenge was to try and find out the atomic mass of the object named ‘mysterium.’ The mysterium was actually solid zinc. The team who achieved the greatest accuracy received the most points. Whilst the contestants were having their lunch break they were able to experience a demonstration of making ice-cream with the aid of liquid nitrogen. This was done by two of the University’s scientists, Professor Trevor Brown and Ian Shropshire. The students even got to taste the vanilla flavoured ice cream, which had been made at -196 Celsius. The winning team was chosen by how many questions in the quiz they got right and the most accurate measurement of the atomic mass of the mysterium.  

Congratulations go to Karan Kupur, Jack Ren, Nikhil Dattani-Patel and Jamie Herring from Loughborough Grammar School for winning the regional competition. Special thanks is given to the University of Derby’s Education, Health and Science Faculty, the Derbyshire Educational Business Partnership and STEMNET for without them, the event wouldn’t be possible. Cathy Brown, STEMNET Regional Director for the East Midlands, said: ‘It was great to once again see such enthusiastic students from a wide variety of schools performing high quality scientific investigations under the pressure of a regional competition.’  

Other schools that were involved were Stamford School, Derby High School, Rushy Mead School - Leicester, Ockbrook School - Derbyshire, The Kings School – Grantham, Deincourt Community School – Chesterfield and Nottingham High School.

Article and Picture supplied by: George Peck (Yr7) @ Anthony Gell School, Wirksworth, Derbyshire

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Top 20 Most Popular Future Jobs of 2030

by HannahB 1. February 2010 14:17

A new report (.pdf) commissioned by the U.K. government and conducted by Fast Future asked a select group of futurists and thinkers to list what science and technology jobs they think would be most popular by the year 2030.

The group came up with over 100 roles, 20 of these were selected for the study. 

These roles could see trips into space no longer being just for astronauts, with future jobs as space pilots, tour guides and astro architects! Computers and robots are expected to transform the fields of medicine and farming. The world of medicine will see advances in nanotechnology, enabling scientists to treat cancer and other resistant diseases at the cellular level.

Here’s the complete list of all 20, with summarized descriptions:

  • Body part maker: Create living body parts for athletes and soldiers.
  • Nano-medic: Nanotechnology advances mean sub-atomic treatments could transform healthcare.
  • GM or recombinant farmer: That’s “GM” as in “genetically modified” or engineered crops and livestock.
  • Elderly wellness consultant: As an aging population increases in size, we’ll need folks to tend to their physical and mental needs.
  • Memory augmentation surgeon: Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, surgeons could boost patients’ memory when it hits capacity.
  • ‘New science’ ethicist: With the rise of cloning and other ethically-dubious practices, ethicists will be needed to ford the river of progress.
  • Space pilots, tour guides and architects: Space tourism will allow for space pilots, tour guides and the architects that will allow them to live in lunar outposts.
  • Vertical farmers: The future of farming is straight up. Vertical farms in urban areas could significantly increase food supply.
  • Climate change reversal specialist: Regardless of what you think about human-induced climate change, it’s clear we’ll need scientists who specialize in altering it.
  • Quarantine enforcer: When a deadly virus spreads rapidly, quarantine enforcers will “guard the gates.”
  • Weather modification police: If weather patterns can be altered and adversely affect other parts of the world, law enforcement will be needed to keep things legal.
  • Virtual lawyer: As international law grows to supercede national law, lawyers will be needed to handle cases that involve people living in several nations with different laws.
  • Classroom avatar manager: Intelligent avatars will replace classroom teachers, but the human touch will be needed to properly match teacher to student.
  • Alternative vehicle developers: Goodbye, internal combustion engine. Zero-emission cars will need smart people to design and manufacture them.
  • Narrowcasters: As in, the opposite of “broadcaster.” Media will grow increasingly personalized, and we’ll need people to handle all those streams.
  • Waste data handler: Think of it as an “IT axe man”… for information. Waste data handlers will destroy data for security purposes.
  • Virtual clutter organizer: Now that your electronic life is more cluttered than your physical one, you’ll need someone to clean things up — including your e-mail, desktop and user accounts.
  • Time broker/Time bank trader: What’s more valuable than precious metals, stones or cold, hard cash? Your time.
  • Social ‘networking’ worker: A social worker for the Web generation.
  • Branding managers: These already exist for celebrities, but now everyone needs a “personal brand” so others can easily digest who you are and what you stand for.

For complete descriptions and resources for these jobs see the original article

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Survey Reveals Over Half of Parents Don't Understand Modern Primary School Maths Techniques

by HannahB 1. February 2010 13:18


Division by Chunking, The Grid Method and Number Bonds are just a few of the mathematical techniques which are now a feature of primary school maths, yet in a survey of 1000 UK parents published today, over 50% admitted that they would be unable to explain these to their children.  It shows that there is a worrying gap between the maths parents learnt when they were at school and that which their children are taught in classrooms today.

The survey was commissioned by Random House Group in advance of tomorrow’s publication (07.01.10) of ‘Maths for Mums and Dads,’ by Rob Eastaway and Mike Askew.

A staggering 79% of parents revealed that maths homework frequently leads to conflict and arguments in the household, perhaps explaining why a third of those surveyed admitted that they avoid helping their children with their maths homework.

The survey further revealed that 41% of parents were unable to provide the correct answer to a question that a 10-year-old might be expected to solve in a national test*.

With a third of parents admitting that they struggle with the maths that they no longer use in everyday life, many parents are finding it difficult to support their children in this vital subject. 

Maths plays a central role in the UK curriculum and is, alongside English, one of only two compulsory subjects at GCSE. A sound start to maths in primary school lays the foundations for later success and many parents are anxious to get to grips with their children’s maths studies at this earlier stage; new release ‘Maths for Mums and Dads’ prepares them to tackle this challenge.

Maths for Mums and Dads co-author, Rob Eastaway said: “Our book is designed to take the pain out of maths homework, by explaining the techniques children are now taught at school and by giving parents an insight into why children make mistakes.  We want to inject more enjoyment into maths at home, so that parents no longer dread hearing the phrase ‘can I have some help with my maths homework?’ ”

Maths for Mums and Dads is published in Square Peg hardback on 7 January 2010, priced £9.99

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Rolls Royce Science Prize: Finalists in the East Midlands!

by Guest Blogger 1. February 2010 13:02

The Rolls-Royce Science Prize is an annual awards programme, run in conjunction with the national network of Science Learning Centres, which helps teachers implement science teaching ideas in their schools and colleges.

Two of the nine finalists in 2009, chosen from a field of 1,500 schools and colleges, come from the East Midlands! As finalists, the schools have already been awarded £6,000 to implement a science teaching project and could win a further £15,000 in this national competition.

Teachers from Kibworth Primary School in Leicestershire have developed an innovative science project, to develop a network to share information with neighbouring schools to improve science teaching and learning. Over the year the school will work to give science a higher profile by ensuring teaching assistants are engaged in science teaching. 

Staff from Moulton School and Science College in Northamptonshire have developed an exciting project, in which students will learn how forensic science techniques are used in real life police investigations. The students will develop their scientific skills across a range of disciplines including the use of DNA fingerprinting and the way in which science is applied in crime fighting.

Sue Bull, Director of the Science Learning Centre East Midlands said ““Both schools have come up with innovative and creative ideas to help develop students and staff in order to enhance science teaching and learning. I hope their projects progress well over the year and that they are successful in the final which takes place in October. ” 


Guest Blogger - Sue Bull, Science Learning Centre East Midlands

Free Workshops for STEM Providers

by Guest Blogger: CathyB 1. February 2010 12:54


The Science Community Representing Education (SCORE) and BIG are working together to offer workshops supporting STEM providers in understanding and implementing changes to the English National Curriculum for science and maths. Each workshop is designed to inform those offering STEM activities to schools about changes and to help generate new delivery ideas. Aimed principally at STEM providers whose role is to develop schools programmes, each one-day workshop will provide: 

  • An overview of changes to the English National Curriculum for science and maths at primary/secondary levels including key developments anticipated over the next few years
  • An outline of the motivations for change
  • Information about how the role of STEM providers is complementing these changes, and how schools will use providers’ services in the future
  • Interactive sessions led by STEM providers showcasing activities which have embraced curriculum change for Mathematics, Scientific Process (primary session) and How Science Works (secondary sessions)


Primary workshop:

Friday 12 February, 10am-4.30pm, National STEM Centre, York

Secondary workshop (running twice):

Monday 15 February, 10am - 4.30pm, Science Learning Centre South West, Bristol

Friday 19 February, 10am-4.30pm, Science Learning Centre North West, Manchester


Register at by 31 January 2010.

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GreenSTEM Set to Grow!

by Guest Blogger: PhilipB 1. February 2010 12:22


Unemployed female science and engineering graduates have an opportunity to improve their skills and enhance their CVs in a Leicester-based project. GreenSTEM is an initiative run by LeicestHERday and the British Science Association to help unemployed female STEM graduates in Leicester and Leicestershire to:

  • develop innovative business ideas for green-themed products and services 

  • support each other in a network receive training in business, communication, web and marketing skills

  • experience presenting ideas to the public and businesses

  • enter for the title of ‘GreenSTEM Entrepreneur 2010’ and a cash prize.

In addition, applicants who have been in receipt of JobSeekers Allowance for 6 months or more will be paid a salary.

The project is especially interested in engaging women from ethnic backgrounds or with a disability, but will be happy to consider any science or engineering female graduate.

Entrepreneurs will be supported by their own private network, mentors, training (both on-line and live in Leicester), and by supporting each other.

Further details from the GREENstem website This project is generously supported by a grant the UK Resource for Women and is run by the LeicestHerDay Trust and the British Science Association in association with the University of Leicester.   

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The views expressed in this Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the East Midlands STEM Partnership, its partners or funders, including East Midlands Development Agency.


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