The students all took part in the finals of the competition at the Big Bang fair in Manchester, where they were judged to be the winners and runners-up for the Institute of Physics prize, awarded for the best physics project.
Andrew Smith (19) from Louth, Lincolnshire worked during his summer holidays on a project looking at GPS systems. The study, led by Nottingham University, investigated inaccuracies in GPS signals.
Andrew is keen to encourage younger students to get involved in science. “I want to show to others that science is fun, interesting and exciting”, said Andrew. “Winning the competition has opened so many doors for me. I’m really excited about studying physics further at university.”
Erik Bews (17) and Keith Alexander (18), from Orkney, were joint winners. Erik and Keith worked with renewable energy company Scotrenewables Ltd to improve the predictability and accuracy of the company’s wave test facility.
Erik said, “Hopefully research like this could one day lead to improvements in the efficiency of renewable energy production. I’ve learnt so much whilst doing my project. This kind of work shows that physics is an exciting science relevant to our everyday lives – not all to do with sitting in a room crunching numbers! The visit to RAL today also confirmed this. I’d love to work here when I’m older.” Erik and Keith are preparing to go to university in September to study physics.
The youngest prizewinner was Seamus Curtin (12) from Montrose. Seamus was a runner-up in the junior (under 14) category of the National Science and Engineering Competition for his 3D model of local galaxies. He was just 11 when he completed the project, and is a keen astronomer.
The students spent a science-filled day at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory; meeting the director of ISIS, Dr Andrew Taylor, instrument scientists, and touring the ISIS accelerator and experimental halls.
“We were delighted to able to show these student scientists around ISIS, it is great to see young people so inspired” said Dr Andrew Taylor.
Dr Beth Taylor of the Institute of Physics (IOP) presented the students with their certificates. Dr Taylor said, “All four students really enjoyed their day, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share their enthusiasm. It’s very encouraging to see the next generation of physicists coming through. I’m very grateful to the staff at ISIS who made it such an exciting day, and to the British Science Association who organised the competition”.