Science Treasure Hunt - Part 1

Hi everyone!

I'm taking a break from the Meet the Committee series this week to write about our most recent event: the Science Treasure Hunt. This took place on 18th March 2017 during British Science Week. Based around Norwich city centre, this was the first event that BSA Norwich had planned from scratch!

During the event, the challenge for everyone taking part was to find the scientists and volunteers that BSA Norwich had hidden at six locations around the city centre. Participants were asked to make their way between the venues and try out some science-themed activities at each one. To make the journey even more worthwhile (as if learning about science on a Saturday wasn't enough...!), visitors could receive a stamp at each location and be entered into a prize draw if all six stamps were collected. To help everyone on their way our Design Officer had produced a map with some handy clues for finding all the stalls:

Below is a quick description of what was going on at each location to highlight the range of science activities on offer.

LOCATION 1 - Microbial Fuel Cells 

The Clue: This place is named after the marketplace or public square of an ancient Roman city (3,5)

At this stall our volunteers were talking about micro-organisms and how they can be used to make green energy. In particular the stall showcased a device called a MudWatt which produces electricity when filled with soil. In fact, it isn't the soil that makes the electricity but the bacteria that live in it. The bacteria can break down nutrients in the mud and turn them into an electrical current which can be collected by an electrode to power an LED. Researchers at the University of East Anglia (including myself) work with one such bacterium called Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 which we hope will be used for renewable energy purposes in the future!

LOCATION 2 - Amazing Animal Adaptations 

The Clue: This place is close to the castle. If a shop isn't closed, it's... (4)

For this stall BSA Norwich borrowed some giant snails, leaf-cutter ants, hissing cockroaches and stick insects so we could discuss some of their evolutionary adaptations - e.g. leaf-cutter ants farm fungus for food! There was also the chance to make a beak out of paper and a clothes peg to understand how different shapes and sizes can affect dexterity - similar to the variations seen by Charles Darwin with Galapagos finches.

LOCATION 3 - The Chemistry of Smell 

The Clue: This historic structure makes Norwich a city and not a town. (Later in spring, visit again to see peregrine falcons nesting!) (9)

This stall focused on the chemicals which give rise to smells and how our noses detect them. On the stall there were a range of essential oils and the aim was to match up their smell to the fresh herbs and spices (including coriander, garlic, lemongrass, cloves and mint) which they can be extracted from. To complement this we had Molymod kits for visitors to try making their own chemical structures in 3D. This helped to discuss and visualise the elements which make up the smelly molecules (mostly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen) and the chemical bonds between the atoms.

I think that's just about enough science for one week so I'll end this post here - next week I'll be writing about the three remaining activities and acknowledging everybody who made this such an amazing event. :)

Photo credit: Alfie Kirk (

As always, if you have any thoughts or feedback regarding events, social media activity and blog posts from BSA Norwich then we'd love to hear from you! Also, please get in contact if you'd like to volunteer. :)