Merchant Taylors' School Science Challenge 2023

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Merchant Taylors’ School Science Challenge 2023

We were invited to The Merchant Taylors’ School Science Challenge 2023 for pupils in Year 5 hosted this year by the Physics, Chemistry and Biology departments on Friday 28 April 2023. A team of four Year 5 pupils from Durston House completed experiments in three different Science challenges. The aim was to stretch the Science enthusiasts, for them to problem solve and learn across all three Sciences.

Four boys from Year 5 were selected based on the assessments conducted so far. The four boys were:

  • Binglin   L  
  • Samuel S 
  • Emmanuel S 
  • Shrian B  

Here they share their experiences.


All over I had an amazing time at the Merchant Taylors’ Science Competition. We had three different challenges: Physics, Biology and Chemistry, and we were one of twelve schools who competed in the competition.

The first thing we did was watch an annual military parade, where people from the army came to inspect MTS cadets at the school, who would then have the opportunity to have a job in the military. I really enjoyed it and loved how all the marching was in unison.

Next we had our first challenge, Physics, where we had to make an electromagnet using wires and a pulley system. After that we had a short break and were provided with some refreshments. Our rest wasn’t long and we dashed to our next task, Biology. In this task we had to find whether a substance was Acidic or Alkaline using Red Cabbage. It took a lot of work, but we managed to do it.

 To celebrate our first two tasks, we sprinted down to lunch, where we had fish and chips, sausages and chocolate cake. It was extremely tasty and delicious to eat, and during the experience we saw some ex-Durston Boys! They came to greet us and were happy to see their ‘old’ Science teacher, Mr. Datoo.

After lunch we rode to our last challenge in the Chemistry lab. Over here we had to create carbon dioxide using marble chips and hydrochloric acid. It was super fun and I thought it was the best challenge of the day.

After a long day, we finally went to the break room to find out about the winners, and although we didn’t win, we left smiling in our own success.

When we eventually got to school in an eight-seater van, we told our friends all about our adventure. We thank MTS (Seniors), Mr. Datoo and Durston House for arranging and providing comfortable transport!


Our team of four boys participated in a Physics Challenge. We made an electro-magnet strong enough to pick-up a toy car. The process we followed was to cut some wire off of a coil, strip some of the wire removing the plastic casing, exposing the copper.  Next, we attached the copper to crocodile clips in order for a circuit to be formed.  We attached the clips to a battery on one end, while wrapping the middle of the wire around an iron cylinder after which time we tested whether the magnet was strong enough to pick-up the car. Our first attempt was with one turn; however, we needed 30 turns of wire for it to work. 

Next, we made a bridge using a metre of cello tape, 10 pieces of newspaper and 300 grams of weights. It was strong enough to hold the toy car. We constructed the bridge by rolling up the newspaper and cello taping it to other pieces of paper. The bridge fell twice. 

Binglin Li:

Going to Merchant Taylors’ was a truly phenomenal experience. There were three experiments: biology, physics and chemistry. Biology was all about indicators, basically an indicator is any substance that shows us a visible change, usually a colour change occurs in presence of an acid, alkali or a neutral solution. In the Biology experiment the indicator was red cabbage pigment. It would tell if the substance we added to the red cabbage pigment was an alkali, acid or neutral by comparing it to the ph scale. In the experiment we used many items found in a typical household for example limescale remover. After you did the main part of the experiment you would do a second part in which you would answer questions about acids and alkali. Lots of colours were produced.


And so it came to the final challenge…after lunch, all four of us walked into the chemistry room; focused, fizzing and buzzing with excitement. We were safe in the knowledge that we had what it takes to face the toughest challenge yet and emerge victorious!

Kicking things off, two chemistry teachers explained the challenge. We needed to use marble chips of three different sizes (large, medium and small) and put them in 30cm of hydrochloric acid. Our objective was to capture the carbon dioxide released. We would stop catching the gas when the gas meter reached a certain point. We had to use the three different types of marble chips, three times each and recorded the average time taken to reach the gas meter’s limit. The experiment was to see which type of marble chips reached the gas meter’s limit the fastest.

We all understood the challenge and got to work after writing our hypothesis. The first time we did it, it went smoothly, but we knew we had to do it eight more times! Incoming brainwave! We decided that we would split into two groups; Emmanuel and I and Sam and Bing. This was successful and we started to track ahead of the other schools. After writing our conclusion, we answered the questions on the worksheet and finished with ten minutes to spare. All we could do now was wait with baited breath to see if we were victorious…

Mr Dattoo – Head of Science