The winning formula? Try inertia

12th March 2004 at 00:00
As Science Week begins today, Neil Munro and Douglas Blane report on the latest moves to revitalise teaching in schools

The latest effort to raise the profile of science for pupils is the "Paperclips" competition run by the Institute of Physics. The Scottish final was staged last week at Glasgow Science Centre.

Four boys from the High School of Glasgow walked away with the honours this year for their project on inertia, and will now move rather more quickly to London for the UK final.

Paperclips challenges senior pupils to explain some aspect of physics to a panel of judges featuring a physicist, a physics teacher and a non-scientist. Practical demonstrations are part of the presentation but, to avoid disadvantaging schools with a small science budget, only items that might be found in the average home are allowed - hence the title.

The competition now attracts almost 200 schools from across the UK and Ireland. The other Scottish finalists were Douglas Academy in Milngavie, last year's winners, and Bathgate Academy. Their respective topics were X-rays and polarisation.

Judging the competition were Mark Hughes, development officer with Glasgow Science Centre and a non-scientist, Ken Skeldon, from Glasgow University's physics department, and Drew McCormack, principal teacher of physics at Braidfield High in Clydebank.

Peter Ball, head of the Institute of Physics in Scotland, said the competition "reinforces the message that physics can be fun".

Mr Ball added: "It develops, in a very enjoyable way, skills for communicating science, team working, problem-solving and personal organisation as well as allowing pupils to demonstrate other, perhaps previously latent, talents such as acting.

"The competition also allows pupils to practise these skills by doing a presentation for real. As any teacher will well know, you have to understand something in order to be able to explain it to others.

"The learning process that goes on while teams are preparing their presentation should not be underrated."

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