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Science - All fired up for chemistry

The Cambridge Chemistry Challenge, a monthly online competition launched last year, is designed to push boundaries and stretch students' knowledge. They can use the internet, but only to find scientific data, not easy answers. At the end of the online competition in June, a written exam is set for Year 12 (S5) students across the UK, writes Peter Wothers.

Five questions are issued at the start of every month, with an increasing level of difficulty, and participants have to solve each one before they can progress to the next. Anyone who correctly solves all five appears on the honours board.

We wanted to give students a new and fun approach to chemistry and science problem-solving that would prepare them for undergraduate study. At school students are taught the facts, but here they have to be creative, apply knowledge of other subjects and think in a different way. The more we can close the gap between the study of science at school and at undergraduate level, the better.

The Chemistry Challenge is a great opportunity to identify our brilliant scientists of the future. In many cases, students achieve higher marks than their teachers. In the UK alone, 3,000 students across 250 schools took on the Chemistry Challenge in its first year. The questions we set engaged students and teachers and got them talking about problems inside the classroom and out.

What else?

To get involved with the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge, go to www.c316.org.

For fun science challenges to move students away from facts and equations towards real-life situations, try geminiwhizz's "Bright Ideas Challenges" and "Crazy Scientist Challenges".

For a creative chemistry classroom, check out Rachel Ann's "Choc Cycle" or mad_scientist's "King Kong's Hand" experiment.

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