STEM Symposium 2023

Jonathan Zhao


Snuggled amidst Queen’s School – the heart of STEM at Eton, the Egerton theatre is an amazing place. It has seen a wealth of researchers and scientists from across the globe presenting in almost weekly SciSoc meetings; it has been the host of annual STEM competitions which bustle with the vibrant enthusiasm of younger years. Today it was even better a podium on which STEM students in their final year of Eton gathered to present the fruits of a year’s worth of hard work. Not only did they demonstrate curiosity and rigour comparable to the “Master’s level” of research, they also provided valuable insight and acted as role models for younger attendees to aspire towards.


The C block STEM project, led by Dr Mackie and Mr Townley, involves a year-long research project in groups of around 5 members. Teams chose a diverse variety of subjects, reflective of the breadth and depth the field of STEM encompasses: there were topics ranging from the quest to discover temperatures for superconductivity to the propulsion of ping pong balls with pressure differences. On the Physics side, the overall winners investigated air flow around a wind turbine, drawing together aerodynamics with computational modelling and an impressive construction of a prototype from MDF and Aluminium. The runners-up took a drastically different yet equally stunning approach, proposing microbial fuel cells that generate energy from urine – solving two problems at once! It was amazing to see that there was something for everyone, extending the field of STEM to a far new level. Group members were varied, with people focusing on different parts of the task to combine their forces and create these projects.

[Dr Mackie introducing the symposium] 

[Photos by Graham Keutenius]

Ultimately, all teams had substantial investment not only to the scientific theory behind the idea, but also to practical implementations and prototypes. The Design Schools played host to the construction of projects the like of model wind turbines and wooden speakers. The audience was most impressed by the live demonstration of the pressure propulsion system – ejecting a table tennis ball at almost 70% the speed of sound lit up the room. Furthermore, there were focuses on pressing global issues. Construction of modular wind tunnels shed light on renewable energy; production of microbial fuel cells aspired for the accessibility and quality of life in rural areas; the attempt of sound to extinguish fires sought to remove the harms in the production and usage of traditional equipment.


Although only one team was able to take home the prize, as an attendee, the “difficulty in choosing the winner” in Mr Townley’s closing remarks could not be more pertinent, not least because of the immense effort and dedication put forward by teams, but also through the presence of certain spikes and specialities that was ubiquitous in each team.


[Teams with their pitches and prototypes] 

[Photos by Graham Keutenius

As was mentioned several times during the Symposium, the sincerest gratitude and praise must be given to Mr Townley and Dr Mackie for their initiative and leadership of the program, to the science teachers that formed integral mentors who guided and advised the teams, and, most importantly, to the members of the 6 teams who presented and spearheaded the informative and enjoyable evening of STEM. 

As an avid Science enthusiast in C block (Year 12), a high bar was set for us to match next year!

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