The Competition Challenge

We interact daily with gravity; it keeps our feet on the ground and the Earth orbiting around the Sun. Yet it’s not often that we stop and consider what gravity actually is. Our challenge to you is to share with us your own picture of gravity. What is it? How can we describe it? What experiments can we carry out to investigate it?

Our understanding of gravity has changed a great deal over time. Beginning in the seventeenth century scientists such as Galileo and Newton first built a picture of gravity, from studying its effect on falling objects, as a force between all massive bodies. In the early twentieth century Albert Einstein then developed a radically different picture: in Einstein’s general theory of relativity gravity can be thought of as a bending of space and time themselves. A key prediction of Einstein’s theory – the existence of gravitational waves – was confirmed in 2016 when the twin instruments of LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravity-wave Observatory) detected directly the gravitational wave signal from two black holes colliding more than a billion light years away. LIGO’s dramatic discoveries have opened up a whole new window on the cosmos – offering us a completely different way to observe the universe around us.

What to do

Entries can be from an individual pupil but where possible we encourage team entries of up to four pupils. There is no limit to the number of entries per school. There are three age group categories and each has their own particular aspect to consider.

1. Upper Primary:

We would like pupils to investigate gravity alongside forces such as the magnetic and electrostatic forces. The brief is to produce a poster (a template is available here to give ideas on what content we might expect). A short introduction suitable for pupils is available here.

Curriculum links: Forces (first and second level experiences and outcomes).

2. S1-3 (BGE):

Teams in this category are asked to produce a poster on their investigations into what gravity is and how our knowledge of it has changed over time. An accompanying submission of 1 page of text (excluding references) is required and judging will include poster and text. A short introduction suitable for pupils is available here.

Curriculum links: Forces (third level outcomes) and space (fourth level outcomes).

3. S4-6 (Senior phase):

Senior pupils are asked to produce a poster on our modern understanding of gravity which includes consideration of gravitational waves, how they were detected and the implications of their discovery. An accompanying submission of 2 pages of text is required (excluding references) and the essay should link to the theme of the poster but provide more detail. Judging will be of both poster and text. A short introduction suitable for pupils is available here.

Curriculum links:

  • Forces, motion and energy (National 4)
  • Cosmology (National 4 and 5)
  • Waves and radiation (National 4 and 5)
  • Newton’s Laws (National 5)
  • Conservation of energy (National 5)
  • Space exploration (National 5)
  • Forces, energy and power (Higher)
  • Particles and waves (Higher)
  • Special relativity (Higher)
  • General Relativity (Advanced Higher)
  • Waves (Advanced Higher)

Poster Guidance:

There is no standard format for the posters but we have put together some guidance to help pupils get started:

  1. Plan your poster: what are you trying to say? Identify the key message you want to get across.
  2. Do your research: use different sources for information and keep a list. We expect S1-3 and S4-6 to list their sources/references as part of the entry. These should not be listed on the poster but as part of the essay accompanying it.
  3. Making your poster: decide how you are going to put it together. Are you going to use a software package like PowerPoint or make it by hand? If making it by hand, an electronic version is required for submission, so this means either scanning it or taking a picture.
  4. Review your poster: before submitting the poster you should make sure that the text is clear and easy to read and that any images and diagrams used are suitable and copyright free.

An example poster from a previous competition is available to download here (pdf), but it is not compulsory to use this format or style – use your imagination, knowledge and creativity!

Deadline:

The deadline for entries is 31 March 2017. Winning teams will be invited to a celebration and presentation event in summer at the University of Glasgow.

Prizes:

Pupils will receive individual prizes relating to the topic of their entry. The winning team will also receive a trophy for their school.

Submitting an entry:

The competition is now closed.