Second Edition of the Prize of the Apprentice Scientist science competition: NIAS, inside the IISc campus in Bangalore

On December 4th, 2013, five of us students from eighth grade (Dhruv, Sahithi, Tarang, Vishwa, Rishub) participated in the “2nd Edition of the Prize of the Apprentice Scientist.” This was a city-level science competition where groups of eighth graders from all over Bangalore came to participate. This competition was organized by “Lycee Francias de Pondichery”, a French international school in Pondicherry. The judge of the competition was Nicole Ostrowsky, an eminent physicist and author of The Agenda of the Apprentice Scientist. The competition took place at NIAS, inside the IISc campus in Bangalore.

Working on our experiment
When we first arrived at the building, it was a little daunting to see students from so many different schools here to compete with us. This was a true test of our talent- it was time to see whether we could match the wits of the very best students in Bangalore. After some welcoming snacks, we met Nicole Ostrowsky and some other renowned scientists who had come to conduct this competition. It was very exciting to think that we would get a chance to interact and learn from such distinguished people.

Then, the competition started. Each team was given a folder full of worksheets. We had to read the worksheets, design and conduct the experiments involved, record our observations, and write down our conclusions. We were given a total of two and a half hours to complete all this work.

The first thing we decided when our time started, was to split into 2 groups so that we could finish quicker as we worried that 2 ½ hours was not going to be enough for the 5 experiments we were given.

The first experiment was to measure and compare the sizes of a picture of a virus and bacteria magnified in different scales. Team 1 (Sahithi and Tarang) were given this task. After converting both the scales to a common unit, we were able to identify which picture was actually bigger.

Striving for perfection

The second experiment was one to make a simple pendulum and perform some experiments on it. Team 2, which consisted of Dhruv, Vishva and Rishub, was put to this task. after reading through the different parts of the question which were to test what effects the pendulum, and find a conclusion. This took a while so after Team 1 finished their question they switched over to the pendulum question while team 2 started looking at the next experiments and figuring out who should do which one.

The longest experiment we had to do was done by Vishwa, Dhruv and Rishub. this was all about energy transfers and comparisons. There were a few questions that dealt with the changes in energy in a circuit and candle. We had to make an experiment to find out how much chemical energy was contained in a candle and compare it with the energy in the battery. Both the energies had to be measured in Joules.

Later, Tarang, Dhruv and Sahithi began to work on the experiment about air resistance. We had to compare the air resistance affecting a book and a piece of paper. The two objects were arranged in three different position that all affected the rate with which they fell to the ground. We also had to suggest what results the same experiments would give on the moon.

The last experiment we had to do was regarding electric circuits. First we had to create a simple electric circuit without using wires. Then we had to investigate the differences between light bulbs and LEDs. Next we had to construct a series and a parallel circuit using both lamps and LEDs, explain the difference between them, and also state the effect they had on the brightness of the lights.

In this way, hours flew by so quickly we were done with our work before we even knew it. Looking back on the experience, we now also believe that we were the group which was having the most fun. While on one side we worked rapidly on the experiments, on the other side there was Rishub, continuously cracking jokes. We laughed again and again at all the silly mistakes we made (such as using a thermometer with the cap on). Other groups were staring at us, wondering what on earth could be so amusing.

In between, we also had a few conversations with Nicole Ostrowsky. We spoke to her about her job and her book, and also took her advice regarding our aspirations for our future careers. When we had finally finished all the worksheets, we were exhausted but wholly satisfied. After a quick lunch we all gathered in a large hall for the announcement of the winners.

First there were a few speeches by some great scientists. After that came the much awaited awards ceremony! One by one all the school teams were called onstage and given participation certificates. To our surprise, we were the only team in the entire room who were not given a certificate. Unsure whether this was a good thing or a bad thing, we became even more nervous than before.

The prizes for second and third place were given. Finally, it was time for the first prize. We waited with baited breath to hear the name of the winners…
“Choosing the first prize was easy for me,” Nicole announced,”Not only because of their answers, but also due to their enthusiasm, the winners are INVENTURE ACADEMY!”

We won!!!
The sensation was exhilarating! As a prize we were all given certificates, T-shirts, and copies of Nicole’s book. Since we had won the competition, we had now qualified for the national level competition in Pondicherry, to be held on January 17th. Our victory was incredible, and completely unexpected. We can’t wait for the coming final round; but we are sure it will be just as wonderful as this thrilling experience!