“Science in its purest form evokes a childlike curiosity in us as we explore the world and discover nature with nothing but the pure joy of trying to making sense of this complicated world we live in.”
On 24 May 2017, Integrated Programme students from Cedar and Victoria School congregated once again to further deepen their knowledge in Science and delve into the realm of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. This marked the beginning of the annual VCA Science Explore event, organised by VJC Science Society in a collaboration with numerous other CCAs in the college. Amidst an atmosphere of confusion and excitement, the students streamed into the performance theatre, ushered in by our Science Society members.
The opening ceremony commenced, with the main speakers being Ang De Ren (16A14) and Mr Lim Cher Chuan, the Head of Science and Technology in VJ. As De Ren is in the arts faculty, it would have come as a surprise to many when he mentioned how much he loves learning about science. As it turns out, De Ren has an interest in both the sciences and the arts, and he presented to the VS and Cedar students about his own experience and journey in learning science. He offered a few examples of how science pushes boundaries by solving many problems and inconveniences we face in our daily lives, and providing us with entertainment in the form of digital gadgets. To end off his speech, he reinforced the importance (and beauty) of science and called for the students in the audience to continue learning about the world through science.
After that, Mr Lim came up and presented to the students a few scientific questions to ponder about, such as whether fat or sugar was more unhealthy, and how is it possible that ice can freeze in an instant at room temperature using simple chemistry. He also asked them to consider what constitutes a scientific experiment, and he piqued the audience’s interest, through the starting of an engaging discussion. Following that was the introduction of the VCA science research programme, during which Mr Lim encouraged the students with an aptitude for science research to join the programme which was exclusive to VJC. Thereafter, came the prize presentation ceremony for outstanding VJC participants in the VCA Science symposium, concluding the opening ceremony.
Soon, the students were moving to the various locations in their various groups, with a total of six groups named A to F. The Victorian Press sent two of its members to observe the workshops as conducted by both the Science Society and other CCA’s of the college, with each writer covering three of the six groups.
Group A was to go to the Synapse for the “The Human Hand” activity. It was a station-based activity, where participants can only move on to the next station after performing a few tasks at the current station. Each group was split into further sub-groups. The first station put the students’ knowledge on first aid to the test. There was also a competition within each sub-group to see who could bandage a” fractured” arm the fastest, so as to increase the level of understanding of the bandaging technique in students. The second station was called “Two Truths, One Lie”, where students were faced with myths about The Human Hand and were asked to distinguish between the facts and myths. Only the winning group was then eligible to participate in an activity whereby they were required to put together a jigsaw puzzle of the human hand. One student surveyed said that she felt that the activity was fun as it was “hands on” (pun unintended). At L13, students were given the opportunity to assemble an A.C generator themselves, with the parts given. The goal was to use the A.C. generator to light up a LED lamp. As a warm-up activity for the students,the facilitators asked the students to guess the length of the coil of wire prepared. The person who guessed it closest to the original value then got a 3D-printed keychain with the VJC logo. Upon surveying a facilitator after the activity,he felt that the event could have been better and he learnt to prepare for unforeseen circumstances in the future.
Group C’s first activity was The Science of Food. This required the students to perform tests to identify the acid or base that can pass through the visking tubing. Students surveyed mostly gave good reviews. They all shared the common sentiment that the activity was fun and that it was related to their school’s science syllabus. The second activity was Vex Robotics, headed by the Robotics club. Moreover,this activity took place in the Cyborg! Author’s note: Yeah, I never even knew this room existed before. Most Victorians may never have entered the Cyborg, including myseIf until that day. This was definitely one of the most exciting activities. Upon stepping into the Cyborg, the students were very much amazed at the array of the various equipment in the room. Author’s note: I also found out myself that the 3D printer was located in a room conjoined to the Cyborg. However, upon asking the Robotics members, it was found that one could only use the 3D printer under supervision of a teacher. The objective was to build a remote-controlled car model. The students were then pitted against each other in a competition to see which car could finish the obstacle-laden race course outside. Understandably and visibly, the students were engrossed in making the robot and watching the car race. Students interviewed all shared that the activity was really fun and that they would have never had the chance to experience this in their respective schools.
Group F also had a list of unique activities in their fate. Their first activity was Settlers of Catan, which is a strategic board game, organised by the Board games sector of the Strategic Games Club. Players assume the roles of settlers, each attempting to build settlements on a map while trading and obtaining resources. This game touches on the mathematical principle of Probability. As the facilitator said, although the game relies heavily on dice rolling, it is more than just a test of luck. The second activity, Chemistry of Colours, was really intriguing as they got to make…slime! Author’s note: Having noticed countless slime-making tutorials on Youtube and watching the people around me pore over them, I really wanted to see for myself how cool slime could be. True enough, making slime required borax solution (sodium borate) and also polyvinyl alcohol. The students were also provided with highlighter ink that made the slime glow in the presence of UV light. Needless to say, the students derived great satisfaction when they could finally touch the slime they made. The other sub-activity was Chemical Chameleon where students could watch the colours of solutions change as they experimented with various chemicals.
[Ng Jia Yeong]
Group B headed for the workshop “Shoot for the Stars”, conducted by the Astronomy Club. They were taught how to make their own planetarium by poking holes in a piece of black paper in the shape of a constellation and using the black, opaque paper to cover the front of a box made of corrugated board. This showed in action the principle that light travels in a straight line, which was the reason the participants could see the shapes of the constellations projected on a wall. They were then presented with an actual planetarium by the Astronomy Club in the Music Room, and marvelled at the complexity of the night sky which we do not usually see here in the light-polluted Singapore. They were in for a treat as they were entertained by stories from Greek mythology about the constellations, some of which included the stories about the origins of the constellations of Orion and Cassiopeia. This part of the workshop was the most interesting, expressed Kenneth from VS, who had chosen Pegasus to be the constellation on his planetarium. “I don’t usually get to learn much about stars and constellations, so this is quite a rare experience for me”. Following that, participants were invited to a presentation by the Medical Society on three topics: choking, burns and arm slings. The students were engaged with interactive question-and-answer sessions and demonstrations by the Medical Society members, including the proper procedure in response to someone choking. “This workshop [is meant to] integrate biology with our daily lives, so that students can better understand the concepts behind common first aid procedures” explained Dewi Sendjaja (16S42) who was a facilitator.
Group D was introduced to the concept of electromagnetism, which, as the name suggests, involves interaction between electricity and magnetism which gives rise to physical movement of objects. While the students were not taught the specifics of electromagnetism, they were given a motor which operated based on this scientific concept and were asked to build a boat that could sail using the motor given. To spice things up, the facilitators divided the participants into groups and turned the workshop into a race to see which group’s boat could sail the fastest! Needless to say, the students thoroughly enjoyed themselves while cutting pieces of styrofoam and placing together pieces to form their boats. This event demonstrated how seemingly abstract scientific concepts (in this case, electromagnetism) could produce tangible phenomena and be made interesting. After that they headed to the Mathematics Room where they were taught principles and concepts of logic, and played team games involving logical puzzles which tested their ability to think and work their way around problems. “The most interesting part was the ‘doing’ section where we had to learn to be flexible and apply logic in our decisions in the games” expressed Althea and Clara from Cedar. While the logical games required brain power from the participants, both facilitators and participants thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and left with a more insightful perspective on logic and reasoning.
Group E headed to L14, which was the venue of the workshop “Solar oven”. Participants in the workshop learnt to make a mini-oven by harnessing the power of sunlight but using everyday materials such as a cardboard box, aluminium foil and clear plastic wrap. It was indeed interesting to see how using such mundane-looking materials one could make an oven which, according to the Earth Watch facilitators, could heat its contents up to 65 degrees Celsius on a hot day! Physics comes into play here as the oven exploits the properties of the materials which help to preserve heat from sunlight within the box, making for a cheap but effective method of heating water, which was what the participants were challenged to do. For the second section of the workshop, they went to the “Chemistry of Colours” workshop, which was also done by Group F and had fun watching chemistry in action as well as making slime.
“VCA Science Explore was meant to give the VCA kids a perspective of Science that was outside of the classroom, with more freedom and less structure for them to “explore” Science rather than simply ‘learn’ it.” explained Tan Chuin Wei (16S42), the President of Science Society. Well, it seems that the event was successful, as many of the students we interviewed thoroughly enjoyed the experiments and understood the concepts behind the experiments well. VCA Science Explore exemplified the phenomenon of how science can be made fun and interesting to learn. Congratulations to the Science Society for organising such a successful event, and we trust that next year’s VCA Science Explore would be just as exciting!
Ng Jia Yeong, 17S64
Rachel Lim Jia Sing, 17S31