Testing the water… Chemists check metal levels in drinking water.

Teams of young Chemists from schools in north and mid Wales and the borders played the role of forensic chemists in analysing the metal content of water samples as they competed in the regional final of the Royal Society of Chemistry Schools Analyst Competition at Bangor University recently. 

In the competition challenge the 'A' Level Chemistry students, they had to work to professional standards using industry standard laboratory equipment to analyse how much copper was in a water sample.

The teams were given an unknown solution of copper in water and they had to employ two different methods of spectroscopy, AAS (Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy) and UV/ViS (UV Visible spectroscopy) to determine the levels of copper in the water sample.  Neither of these techniques would be available in the lab at school – especially the AAS which uses a flame that heats to 2900 Degrees C! 

Dr Sally Browne, chemistry teacher at Ysgol Llanfyllin, Powys said:
“This event has given my students a unique chance to experience concepts and techniques that we are unable to explore at school.  They also get a taste of practical science at university level.  The students love it and it helps them when making their decisions about what to study for a degree.  We come to this event every year and we have found that the ones who come here to Bangor often go on to study chemistry and biochemistry at university.”

Testing drinking water is something that actually happens in real life and providing such a scenario for the competition illustrates one of the many roles the chemist plays in the modern world. The teams were assessed on skill, understanding and accuracy, as well as teamwork and safety in the lab.

The winning team came from Holyhead High School. Who then went on to join other UK schools for the finals which were held at UCLAN, Preston on the 23 and 24 June of this year, where they came second overall in the UK.  Well done Holyhead!

Shaun Baxter, trainee Chemistry teacher at Holyhead School who attended with the winning team said:  “I am sure this win will set the year 12 students off on a good course for their university applications next year and we look forward to competing in the final in Preston in June.”

Second place was given to last year’s winners Eirias High School from Colwyn Bay and third place went to Coleg Cambria (Yale College).

Dr Enlli Harper the organiser of the event said: “We were delighted to receive generous sponsorship from Liquid Research Ltd Bangor who also very kindly came along to help us judge the competition.  We were very impressed by the enthusiasm and high standard of the competitors this year. We wish Holyhead School lots of luck for the final in Preston in June.

Editors notes:

Liquid Research are a magnetic fluids manufacturer based in Bangor, Gwynedd.

Images attached: There are more pictures available, to request more images please contact: stevie.scanlan@bangor.ac.uk

Publication date: 1 July 2014