Lockdown scuppered a day out in Cambridge for Wycombe High’s Chemistry Race team, but the ‘Atom Family’ still excelled remotely in the university’s challenge. Team member Pehrr Ramrakhyani tells how four Year 12s punched well above their weight.
The University of Cambridge posted a nationwide opportunity for Sixth Form about a Chemistry Race and this intrigued me instantly as it seemed like a fun challenging competition that you could do in a group. Another reason why it was fascinating was because we could have a lovely day out in Cambridge on a weekend! Immediately, me and some of my peers – Alexia Galsworthy, Anna Kate Fischer & Emily Ivanova – decided to participate and we asked our Chemistry teacher, Miss Green, if she would like to be our teacher for the competition and from here began our preparation.
We started preparing weekly with Zoom calls attempting the questions and we felt relieved after attempting them in the first session and realising they were not too bad! The questions were abstract and stretched our minds with challenging questions beyond the A Level syllabus. They also incorporated some slight humour within them such as one question which began with ‘The author of this task recalls a chemistry lesson in secondary school, where he was sent to the front row for being disruptive.’ This provided humour which made all of us laugh after just completing a hard problem.
Fast-forward to the day of the Chemistry Race on Saturday 6 February which was no doubt a very exciting day which we had been anticipating for a while. Although our plans for going to Cambridge had been cancelled as the competition was held online, it was still an amazing experience for all of us. There were many online apps and websites that had been set up to create the best experience for all the teams. The competition consisted of 60 questions and 2 hours to complete them; however, no team would be able to attempt all the questions. This time pressure made everything very frantic but also exciting with us attempting to do as many of these hard-tricky questions as possible. To optimise our efficiency, we had a plan in place where our group would be split in two with me and Emily working on certain questions and then Alexia and Anna Kate working on a different set of questions meaning that we could attempt as many as possible.
After the main competition, the closing ceremony was by far the coolest aspect of the competition as the university had set up an entire online community essentially where we could talk to other groups that had taken part in the competition and also could walk over to different places such as the beach or the hall where we were allocated seats almost like real life! Overall, we placed 21st out of 42 teams and we were proud of our achievement especially considering we were in Year 12 and the competition was open to all of sixth form. A big thank you to Miss Green for all her help and who made this possible!
Pehrr Ramrakhyani, Year 12