HNC Chemists have recently taken part in the annual Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) annual ‘School’s Analyst Competition’, competing against schools and colleges across the country in a series of specially designed tasks to put their analytical knowledge and skills to the test.

The School’s Analyst competition is an annual challenge which is designed to broaden students’ knowledge through a series of practical tests linked to ‘real-world’ scenarios. This year’s theme had students working alongside Trading Standards, investigating the fictional ‘Super Sugar Candy Store’, as Trading Standards suspect that some products the store sells are mislabelled, or could contain ingredients that are unsafe for consumption. HNC’s chemists were tasked with analysing samples from across a range of products, using a series of industry standard experiments to identify any issues with the products.

Students worked in groups of three, undertaking three practical tests and answering a series of questions after to show their findings. In test one, the groups examined the quantity of vitamin C in effervescent vitamin energy tablets to check whether the claims made about the ingredients were correct. Test two saw the groups determine the content of dye in imported red sweets, analysing the dye, and comparing their findings to standard dyes to ensure no banned substances were used in the imported sweets. The final test saw the group sampling a ‘ready-to-bake’ cake mixture to determine whether the ingredients declared on the packaging were correct. Throughout the tests, the groups had to work together to identify the best methods to use, ensuring that they were able to correctly identify the ingredients and that their findings were correctly logged.

After the groups had completed their experiments, logged their findings and answered their questions, they then had to submit their work which will be marked by the RCS. As this is a national competition, the UK and ROI has been split in to nine regions, and work will be marked to determine a regional winner and an overall winner of the competition, with the winning group being announced in early July.

Paul Yates, Teacher of Chemistry and Faculty Lead Enlighten Maths and Science, comments “Students studying A Level Chemistry at HNC not only hone their skills in their lessons – they also have plenty of opportunities to develop their skills outside of their study programme too. This prestigious national competition from the RCS is a brilliant way for our students to put their skills to the test and learn some real-world skills that would be used by Scientific Analysts in laboratories, and with many of our students hoping to progress to a related career, these are invaluable skills to develop. Our groups worked methodically through each of the tests, and I look forward to finding out the results of their work in July!”

You can view a gallery of images from the competition below.

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