STEM Olympics

There was a real buzz in Big School as 24 teams from local schools arrived to take up the challenge of the first ever Wycombe Abbey STEM Olympics. Teams consisted of four LIV pupils and each team was allocated a country, which they represented for the competition, carrying their national flag from one event to the next. On arrival, the teams received their STEM quiz and immediately got stuck into identifying different fruits from MRI scan images, matching different creatures to their countries of origin, matching human organs to their positions in the body and estimating the number of sweets in the jar (the tie-breaker question).

During the day, each team tackled five hands-on 30-minute challenges, which all rewarded forward planning, collaboration, initiative, risk-taking and innovation. A firm favourite was “Solar so good”, in which teams had to build and race a catamaran, driven by a propeller and electric motor and powered by a super capacitor, which had to be charged using solar cells under lamps at the charging stations. To be successful required quick thinking and a good design process, testing and modifying ideas until a successful boat was built. The computing event, “Crackers”, tested code breaking skills and “Parallel Dash” required swift and imaginative mathematical problem-solving. “Now you C me” was a Chemistry challenge of skill and accuracy, whilst “Highlight” provided the chance to construct the tallest possible tower out of a magazine. The tower had to hold a golf ball on top, with bonus points to be had for lighting a bulb just under the ball using only the deliberately sparse equipment provided.

The results were very tight in the end and the sweet jar estimation tie breaker had to be employed to separate bronze and silver placings. Mrs Wilkinson awarded the medals and the podium placings were: gold for The Royal Grammar School, silver for Wycombe Abbey and bronze for Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School. A kind donation from Taylor Wimpey funded Science Museum gift prizes and STEM Olympics T-shirts for the winners, plus STEM Olympics souvenir water bottles for all participants.

Feedback from the day included “The idea of mixing circuits and the design of a boat was unusual, fun and thought-provoking”

“Highlight was really fun and we discovered our inner-architect”

“We liked ‘Solar so good’ because we had to use creativity and brains”

“Good day – hope to join if you do it again next year!”

Mrs S Buxton, Director of Science and STEM