Monmouth Science Initiative

Monmouth School for Boys’ Science Department continues with its exciting venture to promote science in Wales and to stimulate pupils to actively consider a career in research based science.

The initiative involves students in Monmouth Schools Sixth Form working with pupils from local comprehensives on practical science activities, using the facilities and expertise of the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools. The aim is to develop many of the practical skills one would expect of second year undergraduates studying for science degrees. There is also an exciting additional extended project where students build radio telescopes that they use to investigate the ionosphere.

The scheme is now in its 12th year and 60 pupils from five local schools are taking part in a range of advanced level practical investigations rotating through biological, chemical and the physical sciences. The aim is to encourage them to acquire advanced scientific skills and to enhance their understanding of the importance of science in the modern world. Students undertake weekly practical activities in each of the three sciences. In biology, pupils used an extracted gene from jelly fish and inserted it into E. coli in order to make these bacteria glow under UV light.  They then moved on to extracting their own DNA and amplifying it using the polymerase chain reaction and then using electricity to separate out their DNA in order to look for polymorphisms.  In chemistry, carotene was extracted and paracetamol synthesised, yet not tested! The Physics rotation saw students programming robots, building radios, investigating operational research and building and selling armoured military vehicles made out of Lego. A small dedicated cohort continued to work on the radio telescope project, having won a grant from the Royal Society.   On two occasions during the year, students visit Cardiff University and undertake a range of exercises typical of those given to undergraduates. The university generously allow them to use valuable equipment and several senior staff give up their time to work with them. A wide range of departments, including biosciences, engineering, chemistry, pharmacy, optometry and the Heath Hospital, provide opportunities for visits.

The scheme also welcomes outside providers at various point during the course. Members of Cassidian (formerly EADS) who are at the forefront of research and development in defence and security systems run three sessions during the year. During these afternoons, students embark upon an engineering based project where they design, build and attempt to sell a defence style ‘Lego’ vehicle. Students are introduced to the concept of Operational Research and its application in the wider world in sessions organised by Professor Paul Harper of Cardiff University.

MSI has been given as an example of sector leading practice in a recent STEM publication produced by the National Science Academy and this is both supported and publicised by the Welsh Government. We are the only school represented in the case studies and it is hoped that this beneficial publicity will help MSI develop still further and continue to deliver high level science to the community.