Year 12 and 13 students joined me on our yearly visit to Newcastle University to be entertained and informed at the Annual Kilcoyne 6th Form Christmas Lecture. The lecture series is named after John Kilcoyne, a retired lecturer from University of Sunderland who made it his mission to wow audiences while educating them about various chemical reactions and their applications. He may be better known from appearing in his shed on Sky Television’s Braniac, .

The lectures are now delivered by guest speakers who all hold the same ethos of making chemistry fun and relevant. Yesterday Dr Annie Hodgson from York University delivered “Colourful Chemistry at Christmas”. We were treated to a number of demonstrations, from reactions between colourless solutions that created a delayed but striking colour change, to flames and bangs associated with fireworks.

Annie asked for some student participation, which our group were very reluctant to do. Well done to Rassi for stepping up and waving a sparkler through the air! It was left to me to participate with the glow stick though. Throughout the demonstrations Annie explained the chemistry behind what we were watching, why colour changing rubber ducks changed colour in hot water, which salts produced the different colours in fireworks, what caused the bangs and whistles in fireworks as they burnt and how sparklers were made and sparkled when lit were among the examples. Annie told the students to ‘Expect the unexpected’, however I enjoyed hearing gasps from the students when they clearly hadn’t expected the outcomes of a reaction. Film canisters exploding then hitting the high ceiling of the lecture theatre were met with jumps followed by laughter.

On leaving all of our students said they’d enjoyed their hour at the lecture, with Year 13 saying they’d enjoyed this year’s lecture more than the one they’d seen last year. A great way to end the year!

Mrs Robson