Junior Science Writing Competition 2020
In 2020, The British Pharmacological Society and the SEB collaborated to launch our first Junior Science Writing Competition. The competition was open to any child under the age of 12, with the only limitation being that the article must be related to science!
We received lots of fantastic entries. The judging panel, including our Outreach Education and Diversity (OED) Trustee, Andreas Fahlman, and OED Manager, Rebecca Ellerington, thoroughly enjoyed reading the imaginative and creative works of all participants. A huge well done to everyone who entered! We hope you enjoyed reading the winning article by Isaac Waitt aged 11, in the SEB 2020 autumn magazine edition. We also thought that the runners-up were just too brilliant to miss out, so we have published these for you to enjoy here. Happy reading!
By Isaac Waitt aged 11
There are more than 1000 different types of bamboo, found in many areas around the world. As we live in Uganda, we have experience mainly of giant bamboo and water bamboo. I am writing this essay because, although you can read many amazing facts about bamboo, it can be hard to believe they are all true. These are some of our experiments.
1. How giant is ‘giant’?
How fast can bamboo really grow? Bamboo is a large plant that grows in tropical regions and can grow up to two storeys high – we have some in our garden in Uganda. I wanted to see how fast it really grew. We waited for rainy season and when the first shoots appeared, we measured the new growth every day. From our experiments, bamboo grows like this; day 1 = 1 cm, day 2 = 4 cm, day 3 = 5 cm, day 4 = 8 cm, day 5 = 12 cm, day 6 = 15cm, day 7 = 17 cm, making a total of 62 cm over a week. When you draw a graph, the curve is exponential.
2. Structure and strength
Bamboo is very strong but also very flexible. The cylindrical shape is among the strongest seen in nature, and is also seen in birds’ bones. Our tent poles have a similar structure. In fact, the structure is so strong that builders copy it in their buildings! We discovered that a piece of bamboo 5 cm wide can hold 84 kg of weight! We know this because we once made a tree house out of it and it held me and my three siblings!
3. How can bamboo be used?
Being strong, light and flexible is the perfect combination because you can make a huge range of things including bows and arrows and wigwams. You can also make flasks.
Here I will tell you how: first find a wide piece of bamboo 14 cm at least. Since bamboo is hollow, a piece of bamboo 14 cm wide will leave 9 cm of bamboo hollow. First, chop the top off your piece of bamboo then find a stick that fits in the hole - this will be your cork. Then, fill up with water and enjoy. Bamboo is loved by chameleons; once we found two baby ones on it which were a centimeter long! Do you think pandas are the only ones that eat bamboo? Well if you did, you’d be wrong because in Asia and northern Uganda it is a delicacy. I find this delicious, but my brother does not.
4. Are there any risks?
Due to its strength and speed of growth, giant bamboo can take over the garden – and can even smash concrete!
The leaves start as sharp spikes which can cause skin irritation (I know this from personal experience).
I find it amazing that bamboo can be used in so many different ways, and believe it is truly an amazing gift of nature. I very much enjoyed all of these experiments and look forward to next rainy season, where our investigations will continue.
By Mohamad Ibrahim Aujoyeb aged 9
When the COVID-19 pandemic required the United Kingdom to go into lockdown back in March 2020, many people took an interest in planting herbs, fruits and vegetables. My mum and I took inspiration from this and decided to plant coriander and also do an experiment with spring onions. I'm going to tell you how we did it and why I enjoyed it so much.
· Plant pot or container
· Seeds of your choice (we chose coriander)
· Top layer soil
· Bottom layer soil
· (Optional) Spade or shovel
· (Optional) Plant food
1) Firstly, fill half of a plant pot (or a container with holes in the bottom) with soil.
2) Secondly, dig a small hole in the soil using your hands or a spade.
3) Then, plant the seeds inside the pot. For the spring onions we decided to experiment and plant the leftover basal part of a spring onion.
4) After that, cover the seed with a layer of topsoil and wait for the plant to grow. Some plants like direct sunlight and some do not; coriander prefer shade.
5) Over time the plant will grow, and will need to be watered daily otherwise it will wilt and die. Too much water can lead the plant to drown and rot. You may want to buy plant food which can be added to the soil to help the plant grow.
6) Be aware that some vegetables, such as root vegetables, can grow under the soil so if the vegetables cannot be seen, check underneath the soil.
Life cycle of a flowering plant
When the plant is left to grow, the seed will begin to sprout a stem, leaves and flower and they will emerge above the soil - this is called germination. The next stage is when the plant matures and begins to get taller and stronger. After this, pollination occurs and the plant starts to flower and blossom. Once the flowers have been pollinated by bees or other insects, the plant is fertilised and this process produces seeds from the plant. The seeds are eventually scattered by the wind or animals and will grow into new plants. The cycle will then repeat itself.
Why I found this interesting
I learnt about the life cycle of a plant at school but did not use the information. However, by planting the coriander and spring onion I used this knowledge to strengthen my learning. It felt rewarding to grow the plants and to water them with my own hands. It also made me happy to be closer to nature.
My mum added the spring onions to a salad and it felt great to finally taste what we had grown in our garden. We are waiting to pick the coriander, which at the moment is flowering. To help increase the chances of germination, I learnt that I should have soaked the coriander in water and also split the coriander before planting because the husk contains two seeds - maybe next time!
By Reuben Waitt aged 10 and Micah Waitt aged 8
We are brothers aged eight and ten, and we love having pets. We live in Uganda, where it is easier to collect a range of exciting creatures. We spend many hours watching our pets, and these are some observations about their feeding patterns.
Some set traps
Spiders and antlions both set traps.
As you will know spiders can quickly spin beautiful webs. But maybe you have not spent an afternoon watching carefully. If you drop a grasshopper into the web the spider rapidly goes to it, alerted by the vibrations of the web. It shoots out its spinneret and wraps up its prey in silk. It will come back later to feast. The antlion lava uses cunning in a different way. At first, I thought it was just a bug, but when you observe over several days, you see it make a cone shaped burrow. When you put an ant in the pot then the antlion is ready with its jaw open to grab the ant when, sooner or later, the ant will slip down into the burrow.
Some use camouflage, strategy and incredible features
The chameleon uses a different strategy. Its eyes move in opposite ways so it can see in all directions at once. You will know that he had seen the fly because he looks at the fly with both eyes then he shoots out his tongue and catches the fly. We see the jaw opening and then he opens his mouth then his tongue shoots out. Did you know that chameleons eat a lot? A Chameleon can eat more than 50 flies in a day as well as cockroaches and grasshoppers. Also, did you know that chameleons don’t change color to match the surrounding? We did experiments to assess this. We put two different species of chameleon on a range of backgrounds and discovered that they go pale yellow when too hot, darker when they are cold, and when they are angry, they can develop a fabulous range of stripes and spots. We call these their ‘battle stripes’.
Some have a much lazier approach
We had some diving beetles. At first we tried to feed them but one day a gecko fell in their water and the beetles ate it! They ate it alive from its undersurface. Then we put a frog in the water, and they ate it too! When we dropped ants, they ate them before they had touched the bottom.
We need to be careful what we put in with those beetles! They don’t like sharing with other pets!
So, you can see that our pets have a wide range of tactics that they use for finding food. I think chameleons are very fascinating pets.
This is a diagram of all Chameleons
Scientific classification Chameleons
By Kian Mali aged 6 and a half
Since beginning, I am so keen to know about different organisms living around us. One day, I saw my Mumma preparing presentation on ‘Food Chain’ (she taches bioscience in university). I’ve seen an image where different animals and plants are connected with each other in chain like structure. Though, rather then drawing a chain, my Mumma started explaining me that topic by putting each organism at different steps which started to look like a pyramid (in between we also discussed about real pyramid in Egypt!!). Mumma use some new words like prey, predator, producers and consumers. Let me tell you little bit about each of them:
Prey is an animal caught for food by another strong animal. Just imagine if you are a fluffy rabbit playing in the grass, you're the prey for all those big animals including dog, fox, lion or tiger.
A predator is an animal that eats other animals. When big insect eats small insect, they become predator and prey, respectively. While understanding predator definition, I also learn about ‘Apex Predator’. They are the type of animals which can not be eaten by other animals such as, sharks and whales.
While talking about different living organisms, we briefly divide them in to two groups. One of them is producers which can produce their own food without harming other organisms; while other (called consumers) rely on others to get their food. Producers (in other words plants) are the only living organisms which prepare the food for themselves as well as for all other animals living in the ecosystem. They have special element called ‘Chlorophyll’ which help them to do the process called ‘Photosynthesis’ using solar energy.
All animals rely on plants (directly or indirectly) to get food called consumers. We can further divide them into different categories of primary, secondary, tertiary and so on. Let me give you an example to understand this. Rabbit eats plant, then fox eats rabbits, then Lion eats fox. Here, rabbit is primary consumer, fox is secondary, and lion is tertiary consumer. Not only animals, but microorganisms which help during decaying process of living organisms’ dead bodies are also act as a consumer during food chain.
While discussing the different elements of food chain, I also learn about energy transfer at different stages which is the main aim of this entire process. When energy transfer from producers to consumers, its level is maximum, though at the later stages, when its transfer from one consumer to another, the level has started to decrease.
In summary, a food chain shows how each living thing gets food, and how energy is passed from creature to creature. Food chains begin with producers, and end with consumers. Though, we can also call it ‘Food-Web’ instead of ‘Food-Chain’ as some animals eat plants and some animals eat other animals.
By Joseph Penson aged 9
I was walking to the garden room when I stubbed my toe. It did not hurt but I did not notice it was so bad that it was bleeding everywhere! My dad noticed and told me. So, I went to see my mum. It hurt so much. My mum put a bandage on it. I could hardly move so I played on my phone for half an hour. After that we had lunch and then me and my mum went to the shop. I managed to run! My toe felt much better. I went for a bike ride with my dad. I stayed up until 10 pm and then went to bed where it could heal. When I woke up the next morning it felt much better and I had forgotten about my injury! I went for my breakfast.
I found out that tiny nerves in your skin send messages to your brain when there is damage or injury. This is the reason why I felt pain in my toe. I did not feel pain straight away because when the body is stressed it releases a hormone called adrenaline, which makes you feel less pain.
White blood cells kill germs. When you cut yourself, it allows germs to get in, but your blood has special repair cells. They make gluey stuff that turns small parts of your blood into a net. Then your body forms new skin. Did you know that your skin has small holes in it so you can sweat. The outside of your skin is dead so is your hair. Your skin is waterproof and most of your body is made of water.
After a while I took the bandage off. Because it had been on for so long it looked like a toe-stead marshmallow.
Even though this accident really hurt, and I had to wear a plaster for a couple of days, the injury has taught me a lot of science.
By Adam aged 9
My topic of interest is rockets, I have chosen rockets due to their fascinating structure and design. Furthermore, I really enjoy watching rockets take off.
A rocket ship is a very fine rocket powered vehicle which is used to transport robotic spacecraft or humans between the Earth's surface and outer space. The first rocket to ever be released into space was during WW2 in 1942 by the Germans, it was a v2 missile and the first rocket which landed in space was a sputnik satellite in 1957, the rocket was known as R-7 ICBM rocket. The structure of rockets has come a long way and developed drastically from the first ever rocket made in 1942 to present times. Rockets have now been made with fine and intricate detail in order to ensure the operations and travel goes as smoothly as possible. This fine and complex structure carries out very important tasks from transporting astronauts to space and sending high-tech machinery to be installed in space or to fix any issues.
Function of rocket parts
Nose cone: forwardmost section of the rocket, the cone is shaped to minimise aerodynamic drag. Also made to travel in and underwater.
Shock cord: mainly made of elastic material which holds together parts of the rocket after they separate at ejection, also used to absorb shock when parts separate at end of cords.
Recovery wadding: thin fire-resistant tissue that is placed between the ejection charge and recovery system, acts as a barrier between ejection charge and recovery system. Without the barrier the parachute or recovery system could become damaged by the hot gases discharged out of the motor.
Engine mount: holds rocket engine firmly in place.
Body tube: tubes that makeup the airframe of model rocket, they are typically made from paper, fiberglass, or plastic, with the spiral-wound paper tube being the most common.
Fins: control direction and stability, ensures rocket is flying through the air painting in the right direction.
Removable solid rocket: solid cylinder which contains fuel and oxidizer which are mixed to make solid propellant. When ignited combustion takes place through hole in cylinder. (which is the cool blaze of fire which comes out of the rocket).
Parachute: The parachute helps slow the spacecraft down during entry, descent, and landing. It is located in the backshell.
Launch bag: provides stability to the rocket before and during liftoff, by forcing it to be parallel with the launch rod.
Although rocket ships have amazing exterior designs, a lot of work goes into the making of a rocket, this complex vehicle is built with high levels of accuracy, with each part playing a massive role in making sure the rocket operates properly. Therefore, the professionals at NASA and around the world carry out many tests before allowing the rocket to be used.
To conclude, rockets have played a pivotal role in space exploration and have made major discoveries throughout history, providing valuable information on resources and materials which could improve life on earth.
By Lakshmi aged 6
Candies are my favourite food in the whole world! I think it is the favourite food of most 6-year old children like me. Not just children but adults love it too. I feel the lockdown period was the most amazing time I have ever had because of all the interesting desserts my mum baked. There were brownies, cookies, cakes and puddings. There were times when we couldn’t find many baking ingredients like flour and sugar in the supermarket shelves which made me think, all parents are busy baking sweet treats, trying to make lockdown interesting for us kids. Oh, those chocolate chip cookies! I can just go on eating them. That is why my mum made me read articles on the internet about why too much of sugar is bad for me.
I came to know that there are two types of sugars, free sugars and natural sugars. Natural sugars are those found in fruits, milk and some vegetables. These are safe for children to eat. But free sugars are those found in all the yummy food we love, like cookies, chocolates, juices, candies, cakes, honey etc. Now this is the type of sugar we should stay away from. The NHS UK website says 4-6-year-old children can have only 5 teaspoons of sugar per day. What!! That is horrifying. But my mum says there is good reason for why we can have very little sugar.
Eating too much sugar leads to a condition called obesity where the extra sugar we eat is stored as fat causing us to become overweight. Being overweight can cause heart diseases and diabetes. Too much sugar causes tooth decay. It can be extremely painful, and we may end up with awful looking teeth or no teeth at all. Believe it or not, eating a lot of sugar can reduce our appetite and cause malnutrition. Malnutrition is a condition where the body does not get the nutrients it needs, like proteins, vitamins, calcium etc from other foods. It makes our body and immune system weak and so we fall sick more often.
So, parents- please stop giving us so much sweet treats. Instead you can reward our achievements and good behaviour with healthier options like video games or toys. It will make us healthy and bright. So let us join hands together and crush the candy rush!!!