Schools visit for SOAMS day and Salters' Festival

Young scientists from across the region got to grips with some hands-on science experiments during the department's biggest annual events for schools.


As part of Sheffield’s Outreach and Access to Medicine Scheme (SOAMS), 90 Year 9 pupils from across South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire participated in a chemistry workshop where they did experiments they wouldn’t get the chance to do at school.

Working with staff and students from the Department of Chemistry, the pupils created brightly coloured polymer slime. This demonstrated the idea of joining small molecules together to form long chain polymers and highlighted some of the uses of these materials in man made products such as polyester.

They also learned to use the process of electroplating to make personalised nickel and copper key fobs to take home with them. The final activity involved guessing the smell of unknown objects and linking the molecular structure to the molecule with a characteristic.

Salters' day

Another 52 students from 13 schools in South Yorkshire visited the department for the Salters' Festival of Chemistry, whereby each school was represented by a team of four 11-13 year olds.

During the morning the teams took part in a competitive, hands-on, practical activity, The Salters’ Challenge: Trouble at the Salt Mine! in which they used their analytical chemistry skills to investigate a murder.

In the afternoon students competed in the University Challenge: Crystal Creation, where they used their practical skills to recrystallise a sample and produce the best quality and quantity of benzoic acid crystals with the help of our postgraduate demonstrators.

This was followed by a fun lecture by Dr Julie Hyde, called Perkins Purple Planet and Me, which involved colour changes based around the discovery of the first synthetic dye, mauveine.

The day ended with a prizegiving ceremony at which all participants received individual prizes and participation certificates, and the winning teams were awarded prizes for their schools. The winning schools were.

  • Salters’ Challenge: The Mirfield Free Grammar, Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School and Tuxford Academy.
  • University Challenge - Bradfield School, Tapton School and Carre’s Grammar School.

Hemsworth Arts and Community Academy won a special teamwork prize.

The Salters' Festivals of Chemistry are an initiative of The Salters' Institute, which aims to promote the appreciation of chemistry and related sciences amongst the young, and to encourage careers in the teaching of chemistry and in the UK chemical and allied industries.

The Salters' Festival at The University of Sheffield is one of a series of 47 festivals taking place at universities in the UK and the Republic of Ireland between March and June 2015.

SOAMS aims to make a career in medicine a real possibility for local students from all background. It offers support and guidance through an activity-packed programme over five years. The activity days are designed to generate an interest in science and inspire the students to raise their aspirations to study science.

Find out more about SOAMS

Chemistry Schools and Colleges Programme