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Year 5 Girls' STEM Olympiad

Published on 09/01/23

Teams of five girls from both of our Junior Schools, Fitzwilliam Building, Cambridge and Dame Bradbury’s, Saffron Walden, took part in the Year 5 Girls’ STEM Olympiad, hosted by Old Buckenham Hall School in Suffolk.

First up was the Engineering Challenge. The teams were confronted with the task of building a bridge between two stools using straws and tape, with the winner bridge being the one that could support the most weight. Like real architects and design engineers, the teams were encouraged to plan their bridge first on paper, and to use teamwork to decide how to build their bridge.

Next came the Maths Challenge, consisting of a set of problems involving working out the volume of various cuboid objects. Again, there was a strong emphasis on teamwork, with a premium on working with different personalities, in order to forge an effective team, with everybody sharing the thinking and calculating.

The final challenge was Science, a CSI-style forensic investigation, in which the teams carried out a variety of different lab analysis techniques to solve an imaginary crime scenario. The girls had great fun, donning white coats and safety glasses to have a go at examining fingerprints, shoe prints, ink chromatography, comparing how different white powders react to various chemicals and examining hair samples under the microscope. They learned the importance of putting together evidence from a range of sources in order to build up the kind of consistent pattern needed to convict someone.

The teams had a most enjoyable day, working together on a range of stimulating and challenging tasks. As well as helping to strengthen their scientific, mathematical and technical skills, the experience reinforced their sense of collaboration. A powerful message that emerged from the day was that girls and women have successful careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - one of the key aims of this competition.