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It's electrifying

The Key Stage 3 Challenge is a regular yearly feature on the Oxfordshire Partnership’s event calendar, bringing together six schools, 90 students and 18 teams. The motivation behind this event is to provide the opportunity for Year 9 students within the Partnership to discover news areas of physics, delve deeper into topics already taught, and provide more hands-on experiments where cost prohibits students from accessing the equipment needed.

This year, our theme was electrostatics. The students, in teams of five, faced three challenges of one hour each in duration. The first was to investigate the internal workings of one of the nine Van de Graaff generators secured for the day, exploring electrostatic phenomena using bubbles, Bratz dolls and foil cases. The second challenge was organised by the Oxford University Physics Department: salad bowl particle accelerators. Students learnt about the development of accelerators, then tried to make their own, accelerating a polystyrene ball. The final activity was a circus of six challenges, taking students from KS3 concepts up to A2, with flames being flattened, shuttle balls oscillating and materials being ordered into the triboelectric series.

The quality of the work produced in the workbooks provided was exceptional and the competition for the Particle Zoo soft toy electrons was high! Students were in unanimous agreement in their feedback that ‘Van de Graaff’s are awesome!’ and teachers accompanying students value the enthusiasm that their students return to school with. Uptake of physics at A-level in our partnership schools is on the increase, and the KS3 Challenge Day plays a strong part in this.

Katherine Richard
Oxford Partnership Co-ordinator
Head of Physics, St Edward's School, Oxford