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Photo competition winners The Curly Arrow Appreciation Society from The Skinners' School.

Teams had increased to 60 in this year’s Chemistry Race on 19 February, compared to 40 last year.   Organised by Adam Přáda and Michal Straka, the Chemistry Race was once more a 'live' event, taking over the lecture theatres and Todd Hamied to accommodate the increased numbers.

In the competition, teams ‘race’ against the clock and each other to solve unusual chemistry problems suitable for sixth-form chemistry students.

Each participating five-member team is given six questions at any one time, so team members can work in parallel and submit answers as soon as they are finished. Adam and his team of student organisers check answers for accuracy, supply new questions and keep score. Points are scored for correct questions, although the number of points decreases with the number of submission attempts.

“If a team is struggling we can also ask them what the problem is and give hints, which is a good educational experience for both the organisers and the participants,” said Adam. The team with the most points at the end of the two-hour period wins.

Competition winners The Standard Solutions, King Edward VI Camphill School for Boys (l), and runners up Cerious, Radley College.

Chemistry Race was founded at the University of Pardubice in Czechia (formally known as the Czech Republic) in 2015. “I was involved in the Czech competition for a few years while I was already at Cambridge, because it was founded by my friend Jan Hrubeš,” explains Adam, who came to Cambridge from Czechia in 2014. “And two years ago, I thought ‘why not bring it to Cambridge?” His offer was “met with enthusiastic support” by Head of Department James Keeler, and the first competition was held in 2020.

The Cambridge organisers have continued to work closely with the Czech Chemistry Race organisers, and the competitions are both held on the same weekend in February. Both groups work together to create the chemistry problems that will be used. “Most of the questions were from Czechia last year,” says Adam, “but this year Cambridge students have been able to contribute more.”

This year’s winning team was the NMSC Wizards of The National Mathematics and Science College, with a huge 174 points. Exothermic Eltham from Eltham College came in second on 120 points, with Radleium from Radley College a close third place on 118 points.

The top two teams chose prizes from the virtual ‘prize buffet’ in addition to receiving a Chemistry Race 3D printed hexagonal trophy, and all three top teams were awarded the ever-popular drinks mugs, which are actually beakers with handles: “Because it’s a chemistry competition, we wanted to have a prize related to chemistry,” says Adam, noting that the beaker mugs are made in Czechia, which is known for its glass industry, including chemistry glassware.

Full photo of The Curly Arrow Appreciation Society, who each received a t-shirt with the Chemistry Race logo.