Education / Miscellaneous

Competing in the 2021 National Schools Geology Challenge

Maddison Pike, Murry Prowse, Emma Hume, Flo Ilsley, Grace Wiggall and Emma Baldwin – A-level students from Cirencester College – took part in the 2021 National Schools Geology Challenge. In this blog, Maddison (Maddie) writes about their experience as well as their trip to London to visit the Geological Society, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

Circencester College Team (L-R: Emma Baldwin; Murry Prowse; Flo Ilsley; Emma Hume; and Maddison Pike. Grace Wigall not pictured.

In this year’s National Schools Geology Challenge my team from Cirencester College was put to the test. The Challenge is an annual competition [organised by the Geological Society of London] that invites A-Level Earth science students across the country to compete to win a prize. Due to the circumstances around COVID-19 the competition took place entirely electronically. My team found this year a particular success after qualifying for the final stage of the competition and coming in second place.

In the first stage, we had to submit an informative six-minute video on an earth science topic of our choice. We took an interest in the subject of convergent evolution, which is when different organisms independently evolve similar traits. An example of this is how wings are present on both bats and birds, yet they are evolutionarily separate. In our video, we questioned whether the traits of convergent evolution can be compared between modern animals and ancient fossils. The video was perceived well by the judges, and we qualified for the final stage of the competition!

An example of a comparison we made between the skulls of a modern dolphin and ancient ichthyosaur.

The final stage took place on Zoom where we were given a problem-solving challenge to complete. A hypothetical scenario was created wherein a town wanted to install a hydroelectric power station and needed our help knowing which area was the most geologically suitable for this. We were given a host of resources, such as geological maps, and from these we inferred where was best to locate the dam. Each proposed site had environmental disadvantages which we had to plan to improve upon. Meanwhile we also had a budget to keep in mind throughout this. As a team we had a deliberate upon what was the safest and most affordable option.

After deciding which site was best, we had to create a PowerPoint and propose our ideas to the judges in a presentation. The quality of our presentation and the correctness of our site selection determined how each team was placed.  This challenge gave us a great insight into the mechanisms of the geoengineering industry and what geology could look like in the working world. Many of us in the team are interested in pursuing a career in geology – so this was very helpful.

Due to us coming in second place our lecturer, Gareth, decided to take us on a trip to London to celebrate. In normal circumstances the final would have taken place in the Geological Society building at Burlington House on Piccadilly, rather than online, and so on the trip a tour around the building was arranged. We were able to see exciting mineral specimens and a library full of thousands of geology journals and books. Another interesting part was seeing the map room, which was full of geological maps with some over a hundred years old. This was really exciting to see and inspired us as a team massively.

Later in the day we visited the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum to see some more great geology. Some of our favourite parts were seeing the outstanding fossils and of course the dinosaur exhibit! We are grateful to our lecturer, Gareth, who organised this wonderful experience for us.

Coming in second place feels like a great reward for us as a team, which would not have been possible without the group effort that everyone put in. The experience was truly so much fun, each stage of the competition was thoroughly enjoyable. We are extremely thankful to the Geological Society and the challenge organisers for making this such an inspiring experience for us.

national schools geology challenge 2022 logo
Click here to visit our website and find out more about the Challenge.

The National Schools Geology Challenge is a competition where students showcase their interest in geology, learn more about the way geoscience impacts our lives, and put their teamwork and presentation skills to the test!

Participants don’t have to study geology to enter – the competition is open to any interested students who are currently studying geology, geography or science A-levels (England/Wales/Northern Ireland), or Advanced Highers (Scotland).

Entry is open now for next year until 4th February 2022.

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