BRIGHT young scientists became detectives at a mystery-solving event designed to test their chemistry skills.
In the annual event, which is in its 21st year, sixth-form students turned into scientific investigators for a day to solve a chemical conundrum set by Sunderland University.
Teams of three A/AS level students were given open access to the university’s state-of-the-art laboratories and analytical facilities, to perform chemical analysis to solve the mystery of the sabotaged marrows in a make-believe sleepy village.
The students were challenged by science experts to use their knowledge of chemistry to analyse soil and fertiliser samples, determining who has destroyed retired Colonel Smith’s marrows, which have taken first prize for the last three years at the village show.
Three suspects were in the frame, a rival marrow-grower, a teacher angry at Smith’s pub for playing loud music, and a neighbour’s son who swore revenge after his ball was confiscated when it landed in the marrow patch.
University chemist Roger Reeve said: “This is our 21st schools analyst competition, and what makes it even more special is that we’ve been able to show off our laboratories and analytical facilities in the new science complex.
“The competition is always a great way to encourage young people to get involved in science, and hopefully this new facility will inspire their future academic decisions.
“I have been organising this event since the start, and I’m constantly impressed by the enthusiasm and talent of the young people who we get through our doors.”
This year’s winners were Peter Bell, Hussain Gillani and Samantha Small from Emmanuel College in Gateshead, who now go through to the National Finals in the summer.
Other schools taking part were St Anthony’s Girl School, Sunderland; Park View Community School, Chester-le-Street; and Durham Gilesgate Sports College and Sixth Form Centre.