Crack The Code Challenge – STEM

Stephanie Muggeridge

On Friday 28th April 2017, some of us Year 9 students found ourselves at Worthing College for a Crack The Code challenge with STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math). The day was put on by Chichester University and STEM. We started the day with a presentation from a woman who was a Nuclear Fusion Scientist. She told us how she got to the position she is at now and went into a lot of detail on how Nuclear Fusion works and how it could help with the World’s need for sustainable energy. She said she really enjoyed what she did and the fact that she was helping out the world with its energy problem for the future.

There were about 100 students at the event, the schools were put into groups and we went to our first task of the day. We were lead out to a large white dome shaped tent that was being held up by air being blown into it.

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Inside we had tasks we had to do to get the code to crack the safe. We were put into teams of 4 and then told we could do the tasks in any order but we could only do one task at a time. Every time we completed a task, we were given a number. First we had to build a tower made out of spaghetti and marshmallows around 1 metre high, then we had to sit back to back in pairs and create a Lego car, 2 students said the instructions, 2 had to build, and finally, we had to do a task that involves using a periodic table. Our team almost won this section but at least we tried our best, the winners though, were the other Durrington team 🙂

The next task was programing in the computer room, we used a piece of software called Game Maker Studio 2. We had tasks we had to do to create a character that could move around the screen with keyboard commands and then your mouse dictated which way the character would face. It looks difficult on the screen, but once it is explained how it works, it was actually quite easy. Everyone managed to create a moving character and add a background. I loved this session as the programming was very easy to understand and we also created a background for our character to move about in. It was fantastic by the way that Python (the programing type we used) was easy to understand and I felt I learned something new.

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After the computing session we then went to the science section where we learned about DNA and how different problems in health can be passed down from generation to generation. We looked into how they tested DNA and then got to do some testing ourselves. We were shown what do first by the students from the College and University and then got to try it ourselves. I like the way how we were able to do hands on activities in this session as it helps me understand how certain illnesses can be tested through the technique.

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During lunch we had a chance to walk around the college and see how college life looked for the students. We went into 2 different cafes that had some very nice hot food and even had a small shop in there as well, a bit like a mini express Tesco. There was a lot of classrooms that were open planned and had no walls, as we walked down the long corridors, you could actually hear the lessons. The students seemed to be enjoying the lessons which did not really have many people in each class. I found that that was a brilliant idea to have an open spaced classroom as you can still move about freely around the area without feeling trapped.

After lunch we had the Math session. We looked into codes that were used from as far back as Roman times and had a go at breaking the codes. We then looked at the enigma code from the world war and created our own machine with the aid of some printed numbers and lines on a paper and a Pringles tube. The code is actually easy to follow but very effective as not knowing which line went where would make it almost impossible to work out. I felt this was challenging as it was hard to put all the letters in line with the colored lines and to follow them as well.

Finally, at the end of the day we were given our prizes for winning the crack the code challenge and had that chance to grab ourselves some freebies to remind us of the day we had. It wasn’t just water bottles, there were lots of goodies inside the bottles as well. We also got to meet 2 MPs who were there for the day as well and would answer any questions people had. My favourite part of the day was when we did the computing session with the Game Maker app because not only was I finding it interesting on how the programming worked, but we were given the chance to do it ourselves and I found quite interesting as it helps people to understand more if they did the programming themselves.

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