Winners of Our Microscope Challenge Competition Announced

Our home counties territory manager, Gillian Jurdon, recently hosted a microscope challenge for entrants to submit images of something interesting under a microscope. The top prize for the winning entry was a BMS037 microscope and a £25 SciChem voucher, with runners up receiving a microslide viewer or a £10 voucher.

The judges have selected their winner and runners up, and their submissions are below!

Winner: The Oratory School, Woodcote

Microscope image of a bee sting

Bee sting by the science club at The Oratory School, Woodcote.

Runner-Up: Altwood Church of England School, Maidenhead

Microscope image of a Wood Wasp's egg inside its ovipositor

Wood Wasp’s egg inside its ovipositor by Altwood Church of England School.

Runner-Up: Cambourne Village College

Microscope image of coloured tissue

Coloured tissue by the science club at Cambourne Village College.

Runner-Up: Westbourne Academy

Microscope image of thermochromic paper

Thermochromic paper by Westbourne Academy.

Special Mention: Waterbeach Community Primary School

Painting of an onion cell

Painting of an onion cell by Edward, a year 6 student at Waterbeach Community Primary School who has Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Newest West Bromwich Academy Opens for the First Time

A brand-new multi-academy trust secondary school opened its doors for the first time this month, and we were delighted to play our part in helping the school prepare for its grand opening.

West Bromwich Collegiate Academy opened to 175 year 7 pupils on Wednesday 4th September 2019. Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust will run the school, who have a proven track record of outstanding Oftsed inspections for schools in Smethwick, Sandwell and the wider Black Country area.

Exterior of West Bromwich Collegiate Academy's front entrance

The academy is three storeys tall with 15 classrooms, a large dining hall, a library, and even includes a suite for pupils with disabilities and special educational needs. Each year, another set of pupils will enrol until it reaches its capacity of 750, with the academy hosting an open evening for years 5 and 6 pupils last week.

Although the academy already includes dedicated science rooms, a second phase of construction is slated to begin in July 2020 which will expand the academy for its future intake of pupils and includes plans for a fully-fledged science department. This expansion will open September 2021.

Science classroom in West Bromwich Collegiate Academy

The academy’s staff worked tirelessly over the summer to prepare for opening, and we were delighted to help play our part in supporting the science team in their preparations.

We were asked by the academy to provide consultation and offer advice on what will work best for their setup. This included supplying their furniture and racking, as well as fully stocking the prep room ready for this year’s science lessons.

Several cartridge burners arranged on top of a cabinet in a science prep room

As the science classrooms don’t have a gas supply, these cartridge burners are an ideal alternative to Bunsen burners for the academy.

Sara Burns, our Territory Manager for the Midlands and North Wales, was on hand every step of the way to support the academy.

Talking about the academy opening, Sara said: It’s satisfying being able to take on a project like this and see it through from start to finish, supporting the development of a brand new school which will serve the community for many years to come.

Close-up of head and shoulders of a human skeleton model in a prep room

This human skeleton model was just one of many products we stocked the prep room with.

As a new academy they had to start from scratch, so it was also exciting being able to take a look at their entire setup and supply them with equipment for all aspects of their science education, Sara added.

We’re looking forward to seeing how West Bromwich Collegiate Academy progresses and to supporting their science education needs throughout the future.

Senior Science Technician in Bristol Wins Top Prize for Her Technician Tip

You might remember that back in March we ran a competition asking science technicians across the country to share their top technician tips and tricks for the prep room which help them stay organised and ahead of the game.

We’re delighted to announce that Sharen Cordy RSciTech, Senior Science Technician at Orchard School in Bristol, was chosen as the lucky winner of our competition for her tip on microscale diffusion of potassium permanganate crystals! Her prize was a science day out for two in August at the National Space Centre, plus dinner and a hotel stay in Leicester.

We caught up with Sharon afterwards to see if she enjoyed the prize and she had this to say:

“Once I’d submitted my prep room tip I’d totally forgotten about the competition, so when SciChem rang me to tell me I was the winner I was really surprised!

I asked my friend Elaine if she would like to go with me (much to my husband’s dismay!), and once we’d worked out a date, we decided to add on an extra night at the hotel.

The day arrived and we set off, stopping in Coventry for a spa session and afternoon tea, which was a great start to our road trip!

We drove on a bit further to Leicester. We were booked into the Ramada which was in central Leicester. The hotel was great—just what we needed! Once we were settled in, we headed out for a bit of retail therapy and some drinks, and to work out the best way to get to the National Space Centre the next day.

The following morning we headed out by bus to the National Space Centre, which was a quick journey and there was no queue to get in. Once inside there was so much to see! The exhibits were great and there was lots of interactive stuff to do. We had a planetarium show which was really good.

When we came out of the show it had gotten busy! There was lots of information about Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station, which was brilliant as we both have an interest in this.

The best part of the day was spent there, and I’d highly recommended anyone to visit. It’s so hard to have a favourite part of it, as it was all fantastic!

Part of my prize was a dinner which was booked at Zizzi—we had a fab meal and then headed out for a bit afterwards to enjoy the night.

I want to give a massive thanks to SciChem for selecting me as a winner, we both had an amazing time!”

The competition was run for #TECHOGNITION 2019, a week-long event celebrating the unsung heroes of science departments in schools across the country.

Sharen’s competition-winning tip was for microscale diffusion of potassium permanganate crystals:

Laminated sheets with a 2p-sized circle with a line down the middle. Tiny circle to the left. Students fill the large circle with cold water using a pipette. Place one crystal in the tiny circle. Using the pipette, push the crystal to the edge of the droplet—do not agitate the droplet—start the stop clock. Time how long it takes for the purple colour to reach the line. Repeat steps 1–4 with warm water.

SciChem Welcomes Ryan Coleman to the Marketing Team

We’re delighted to announce that we’re expanding our SciChem marketing team this month with the appointment of Ryan Coleman to the role of Digital Marketing Executive.

Ryan brings seven years of experience in the sports and leisure sector with him to the role, having previously worked in digital marketing for a registered UK water safety education charity.

Specialising in website development and email marketing, Ryan’s role involves improving our customers’ experience with SciChem by connecting with them through the web, email and our social media channels.

Ryan had this to say on joining the team:

“I want to help the schools and businesses that rely on SciChem for their lab equipment and chemical supplies by strengthening this connection with them—meeting them online where they’re spending an ever-increasing amount of time.

SciChem has a great reputation for quality and service, so I’m really looking forward to applying my skills and experience here to build upon that and develop SciChem digitally.”

From Recovery to Discovery… Meet Our Champ!

“I’ve learned some great life lessons. If I set my mind to something, I can accomplish anything.”

Back in February of 2018 our Scotland Account Coordinator, Lynsey Christie, competed in the Eastern District Division of powerlifting and won! She then decided she would try the next step and go after the Scottish Championship. She was delighted when on Sunday 12th of August 2018 she became Scotland’s Masters Champion in the 84+ M1 category taking not only the gold, but three new Scottish records in Back Squat, Deadlift and 400Kg final total lifted!

With three chances to lift in each discipline, she finished with 152.5Kg Back Squat, 75Kg Bench Press, and 172.5Kg Deadlift. Plus, with eight other strong women in Lynsey’s category, it was not an easy competition, but with the sport is becoming more and more popular amongst women and continuing to grow each year, it’s not surprising.

“I have always liked to take up hobbies that are not quite the norm, just to challenge myself and powerlifting was one of these challenges. How heavy you can lift is a personal challenge and it requires lots of training and plugging away each night in the gym, working on your technique and binging up those numbers week-by-week, kilo by kilo. It gives you a sense of achievement that your hard work has paid off when you stand on that platform and pull out your personal bests.” Lynsey explained.

Her achievement in winning the championships is made more special by the story behind it. Her previous sport was mixed martial arts and boxing and she was becoming quite an accomplished dressage horse rider. But seven years ago that was all brought to a stop when she got diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, and it was soon discovered to have spread up through her right arm. It led to operations that, unfortunately, to remove the tumours, they had to cut nerves and tendons in her arm, leaving her with the uncertainty if she ever would have use of it again, let alone compete in anything!

Following recovery from rigorous treatment of chemo and radiotherapy, and never to be defeated by a challenge, she took up the mission of her own rehab to get use of her arm back again. Her first challenge was getting her fingers moving; once she got these in motion there was no stopping her!

It was straight off to the pool using water resistance to move her hand and wrist, once that was done, she went onto weights, working on holding weights, then seeing how long she could hold them for and then increasing the weight of them. The deep concentration she had to endure trying to flex her fingers, wiggle her thumb and move her wrist was all instrumental in helping her towards the goal of weightlifting.

The rigors of cancer treatment meant her body could no longer do the same sports as she used to, things were harder, recovery was slower and everything hurt. The other downside to the regime of chemo is that it attacks joints and bones, weakening them. The skeleton on its own is weak, but building muscle around your frame like scaffolding and then putting this under tension, means that things that weren’t stable before became solid and bones strengthen.

This opened the gateway to Powerlifting. The more she learned in the gym, the more she found herself being drawn down the path to see what she could do and learning that when she has a goal, like a competition, it gives her more focus to push herself forward. What set out as a mission to move her fingers became an adventure where she’s met some great people, had some fantastic experiences, and made personal achievements.

“I’ve learned some great life lessons. If I set my mind to something, I can accomplish anything.” Lynsey told us, “It doesn’t matter what anyone else does, the only person you are in competition with is yourself.”

And she has proven that she can do anything – as a cancer survivor, with a right arm that can pull a 172.5Kg deadlift, as a Scottish Champion and as a record holder!

17 Prep Room Tips to Help You Stay Organised as Shared by Science Technicians

Ranging from general science know-how to perfecting your skills, these science technicians prep room tips will help you make the most out of everyday science apparatus and save you precious time.

1. Microscale Diffusion of Potassium Permanganate Crystals

Laminated sheets with a 2p-sized circle with a line down the middle. Tiny circle to the left. Students fill the large circle with cold water using a pipette. Place one crystal in the tiny circle. Using the pipette, push the crystal to the edge of the droplet—do not agitate the droplet—start the stop clock. Time how long it takes for the purple colour to reach the line. Repeat steps 1–4 with warm water.

— Winning tip for our #TECHOGNITION competition winner, Sharen Cordy, Orchard School

2. Tired of Losing Crocodile Clips?

We’ve made crocodile clip leads by soldering one end of the lead to a crocodile clip. We have barely lost any crocodile clips since!

— Rebecca Quinton, Tring School

3. Keep Chemicals Organised

Colour code the tops of dropper bottles for chemicals so they’re easy to sort out at the end of lessons.

— Leslie Aspey, The Maelor School

4. The Power of Colour Coding

We have laminated lab request sheets (colour coded for different days) so we can write on them then wipe off later—the teachers can also write comments or feedback too.

— Andrew Beal, Highdown School and Sixth Form

5. Nichrome Wire Hack

When filing syringes with sand water and air to show solids, liquids and gases under pressure, use a piece of nichrome wire down the side of the plunger to release all the air, then pull the wire out leaving no air inside.

— Kate Bright, Overton Grange School

6. Remove Permanent Marker Stains

Use a dry wipe marker to remove permanent marker from petri dishes you’ve already marked for pouring agar. Wipe with paper towel. Works a treat!

— Lisa McMillan, West College

7. Chromatography

Use 1% sodium chloride solution to separate food dyes in chromatography.

— Emma Pringle, King Edwards VI High School

8. Get Clearer Results with 1% Salt Solution

Running felt tip chromatography (or any ink chromatography) with 1% salt solution gives much better separation and clearer results.

— Chris Hardie, Kingston Grammar School

9. Say Goodbye to Cross-Contamination

Attach a test tube to the side of reagent bottles with a rubber band and put a pipette in the tube. This is great for preventing cross-contamination of chemicals in lessons.

— Lynn Hill, Malmesbury School

10. Keep Crocodile Clips Tangle-free and Organised

Use wire coat hangers to keep 4mm wires with crocodile clips in order. Label the coat hanger using a sticky label with the length of the wire, and clip the wires to the bottom part of the coat hanger to easily keep different length wires together.

— Andrew Davy, John Whitgift Academy

11. Remove Stubborn Stains

To clean the red stain out of test tubes after positive Benedict’s reagent tests, place them in the dishwasher the right way up, so they collect the water. Then, wash them again the normal way up—this seems to remove 99% of the red staining.

— Karen Fox, King James’ School

12. Cell Division Like a Pro

For excellent cell division when doing the root tip garlic practical, add 8 drops of baby bio to 500ml of water a few days beforehand.

— Sharon Coling, Bilton School

13. Washing Up Liquid Hack

Use a cork borer and some washing up liquid to help insert thermometers into bungs.

— April Layzell, Aylesford School

14. Storage Hack

Buy multi-section craft boxes to store Locktronics equipment. Easy to count back in and minimises breakages.

— Margaret Haran, Congleton High School

15. Another Use for a Compression Spring

Use a compression spring as a drying stand for microscope slides.

— Glynis Powell, Community School

16. Keep a Photo Library

Make a photo library of practical setups. This will help enable you to set up difficult practicals or those which are only done annually—particularly physics.

— Victoria Wootton, Stafford Grammar School

17. And Finally…

Use washing up liquid as a lubricant for bungs and tubing!

— Kate Moore, Worth School

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Rcapital Portfolio Conference

In June our investors, Rcapital, hosted over 70 guests from across their 15 portfolio companies at a half day conference and networking dinner at Shendish Manor in Hemel Hempstead. The purpose of the conference was to share the huge range of capabilities and opportunities across the breadth of the portfolio and provide a forum for cross-portfolio networking.

The conference hosted 13 presentations from each of the portfolio companies, nine corporate videos, Q&A with Rcapital’s CEO Jamie Constable and COO Phil Emmerson chaired by Chairman Myles Halley and three guest speakers including Graeme McKinnon, from former Portfolio company Cash Generator. During the break, guests had the opportunity to learn more about the portfolio companies, sample products and speak to the teams by visiting branded market stalls. The conference concluded with a lively three-course dinner and prize-giving.

“The last conference was in 2015, since then we have almost an entirely new portfolio of companies so it felt like the right time to bring everyone together again.” commented COO Phil Emmerson.

“We regularly host Management teams throughout the year as part of our portfolio programme of events. This conference was the largest of its kind so far, demonstrating the huge capability and capacity the portfolio has to offer. We have already seen the benefit of our companies working together through; client introductions, international buying, access to new markets, sharing in-house expertise and inter-company selling. This aim of this conference was to provide a platform for teams to inform and engage with each other.” continued Phil.

Feedback for the conference has been overwhelming positive:

“Well done on an incredibly successful conference yesterday. Everyone seemed to get a lot out of the event and it was great meeting everyone.” Ollie Birkwood, SciChem

“It was extremely beneficial to understand the wider group and opportunities this may now present and also to have the social networking element.” John Gravett, Cluttons

“Great day yesterday – well organised, interesting content and really good networking!” Andy Pearson, Cablenet

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