Specialism News

APS Astronomy Evening huge success

On Valentine's day 2019, Alexandra Park School's science department fell in love with the stars as we hosted an evening of astronomy.

Steve Fossey of UCL and the Mill Hill observatory kicked the evening off with a fascinating retelling of the night he and his team discovered a supernova, which was followed by 2 hours of observing the night sky through the school's telescopes. Highlights of the evening included the STEAM club's homemade telescopes giving clear and highly magnified images of the Moon's surface, and a breath-taking view of the Orion nebula through the school's larger refracting telescope thanks to the fortuitous weather.

I've never used a telescope before! It was interesting to see stars from a different perspective, and Ill never forget itEddie
It was goodCharlie
I went to the Astronomy Observation evening thinking it would be a waste of time (in the cold!) but then I found out that it was really cool and fun!Elsie, 7A
I have never seen the moon that close up before! It was so detailed!>Marin, 7X
I thought fun and interesting to learn about astronomy and see the stars and the moon through a telescope I also found it very interesting when Steve Fossey was talking about supernovasAmelia, 7A
It was extremely enjoyable to learn about supernovas and how they start and end. I also enjoyed using the telescopes we made to see the stars (even if it was quite difficult)Bethany, 7L

Erasmus + MCCS: Copenhagen visit

Five year 12 students were given the wonderful opportunity to travel to Copenhagen during the first week of December as part of APS’ ongoing commitment to our Erasmus+ programme. The project is entitled “Monitoring Climate Change from Space” and the opening visit focused on the fundamentals of rocket science, climate change, and the European Union. We are partnered with schools from Denmark, Spain, French Guiana, and Greece. Our next visit will be to Madrid in March and will focus on rocket design! Mr. Marshall

You can follow the project on Twitter: @ErasmusMCCS or Instagram: MCCS_Erasmus



Monday was the initial kick off of the monitoring climate change from space project, in Copenhagen, Denmark. We started it off by a few quick presentations about each of the countries taking part (England, Denmark, Spain, Greece and French Guiana) including interesting information about their schools, culture and the effects of climate change on their country as well as how to prevent them. We then were split into 9 groups, each to look at a different aspect of the project: solar power, mechanical playground and wind power. In our groups, we completed simple ice breaking tasks in order to meet new people, socialise and make friends. We finished the school day off with a quick logo competition in which French Guiana won, and the basics behind rocket science to increase our understanding. Around 2 o’clock we were dismissed to travel around Copenhagen and explore the city. Emilka Krzyszton



On Tuesday, we went to the Danish Technical University (DTU), where we were split into three groups, and did different experiments. In one group, we built windmills with Lego and then tested how efficient they were with the help of a wind tunnel. Another group plotted a voltage against current graph of LED lights then predicted the voltage of a blue LED. After the DTU, We travelled by bus to the EU embassy, where we had an interesting talk about the future of the EU, and why it is so important to countries in Europe. Afterwards, we had free time, and some of us visited the Christiansburg palace and we went up it and had a beautiful view with lots of wind. Below is a photo of the view. Then we walked around a famous Christmas market and bought some Danish hotdogs and souvenirs, after we did a bit more walking around the streets until we were tired and sat in a small cafe and enjoyed some card games, and hot chocolate. Gillian Lui



Wednesday was covered by a lecture on ice core extraction and analysis in the Niels Bohr Institute.

The lecturer began by establishing the environments and conditions usually dealt with extraction in Greenland; he gave details on: distance from shore ~500km, ice height ~3km and briefly mentions the inconvenience of the 6-month intervals of light and darkness throughout the year, caused by Greenland’s latitude.

The history of ice extraction was gone over from America’s initial plans to build a military base in Greenland to the discovery of heavy water analysis. The scientists used different atomic isotopes to determine a given climate temperature; hence allowing one to uncover historic climate patterns in ice, this allowed the lecture to segue into the section of using the ice cores for climate research.

Performing various chemical processes and measurements on the ice a graph of past to present shows the abundance of certain ions in the atmosphere such as carbonates, sulphates and nitrates. By understanding of these ions’ functions in the atmosphere, sulphate abundance can be used to indicate when a historic volcanic eruption occurred from the substances released into the atmosphere, then rained down left onto the snow, undisturbed for centuries or millennia under the foreseen sheets of ice snow that would bury it.

The lecturer then led us down into a separate section of the Institute to a vault kept at -25°C where he showed us samples from Greenland. He demonstrated that if one takes a thin slice of an ice core and put them under a certain magnifying glass and a light, crystals would shine through in various colours; they were used crystal analysis.

The lecture was wrapped up through insightful references to climate change’s relevance to the current political climate and the types of statistics which are presented to politicians through the ICCP with urgency made on the infamous 2°C global temperature target. Philipp Wiedemann


We got to school at 8:15 and we had a presentation about a small portion of rocket science, which concerned the relationship between velocity and force, if the velocity is quadrupled then the force is doubled. We then split in to nine groups, different from those on Monday, where six of those groups would rotate between air and water rocket constructing while the remaining three groups spent the whole time building small-scale chemical rockets.

For the air rockets, we had to create one out of paper which would then be launched from a high pressure pipe. The main goal was to make it travel the furthest. This was the same for the water rockets too, except we had to hit a target at about 20 Erasmus students (The perfect SI unit) away. The goal of the chemical rockets was simply to see if they worked or not, but it gave an insight about how previous rockets worked. We all returned to the hall at noon to start making presentations about what we did to show off on Friday to the rest of the school. Everyone went home at 2 o’clock to go and get ready for the dinner party at 18:30.

Friday and Saturday

On Friday, we had a late start to the day as we met at the school for 10 am. We finished off the presentations we had started and then had lunch before some of us presented it to the second year students. After the presentation we used Kahoot to see who remembered the most from the week and the Danish students got first second and third place. After that we went home, or went around Copenhagen, before the party that was hosted for us to have a bit of a good time before flying out the next day.

On Saturday we arrived at the station we were meeting at on time and then took the metro to the airport where we said our final goodbyes and then checked in to the flight.



APS Hosts International Erasmus Project

erasmus logo

From 3rd to 11th November 2018 APS had the pleasure of hosting for the 3rd week-long student meeting of our Erasmus+ project looking at Alternative energy and Energy storage. The aim of the two year project is to enlighten students from the 4 partner countries, Greece, Denmark, Poland and the UK about issues around switching our electricity supply to renewables such as wind and solar; great when the wind's blowing or the sun is shining but less good when they're not! Hence, the need for large-scale energy storage and clever technology that matches supply and demand. Over the course of the two years, delegations of 15-19 year old students from every partner school meet in each of the countries to attend visits and talks from experts and work in international groups.

As a world-leading city, it was no surprise we had a busy week indulging in both the science of the project and the equally important cultural side. We must thank the generous staff who organised excellent visits to the Cavendish labs at Cambridge University, Imperial College London and UCL. The group had the privilege of a guided tour of a science museum gallery by the galleries curators! We also had a number of STEM ambassadors and industry experts come into school to work with the group. On the cultural side as well as time exploring central London, the students and staff had a social evening at the legendary Rowans bowling in Finsbury Park and helped during sixth form open evening, running stands in languages and science.

All of the students both visiting and our own demonstrated model behaviour and great enthusiasm for international working and solving the challenging area of having a cleaner electrical energy supply. They now return to their own school and community to spread this knowledge and enthusiasm.

A very big thank you to the APS host families who had international students stay with them and to all involved in the project. We now look forward to the final project meeting on the Greek island of Kos in April 2019 and further ahead to where the students working on this project become future scientists and engineers in a global marketplace solving complex problems and making the world energy supply more sustainable!

Students had a lot of positive comments about the week's activities:

  1. Monday
  2. Wednesday
  3. Solar Panels Talk
  4. Friday

Guided tour by the curator of the Mathematics gallery at London's Science Museum

The mathematics exhibition was great, it was interesting listening to Natasha and Rachel (curators) why and how specific exhibits are chosen. They were so informative it was a real eye opener.Celia
The science museum was huge. We heard lots about the different computers and medical exhibits..I had a great time.Hamze (Danish student)
Who knew Florence Nightingale had such an important role in medical data collection. What an informative and interesting trip around the exhibition.Ash

Visit to Cambridge University's Canvendish laboratories and museum

A fascinating talk about energy storage and the problems with this. It was especially interesting to hear about 'load levelling' to cope with varying levels of energy production from sustainable sources such as solar power, and the different types of batteries that can be used to achieve this. It was also interesting to hear about the way batteries and such can be analysed, using a graph to compare the specific energy and specific power of batteries - for example, lithium ion batteries have a high specific energy but a low specific power, and vice versa for capacitors.
We also learnt about the problems with lithium ions batteries - lithium is limited, cobalt and nickel can be toxic in the environment, so disposal is a problem. Hydrogen fuel cells can be used instead, although hydrogen gas can be difficult to work with so the system must be made safer before it can be considered a viable alternative. Celia
  • brief explanation of the band gap within atoms where electrons jump from the valence to the conductive band when energised, and as they drop down to the relaxed state they emit a photon. It is the size of this band gap that influences the ability of the material to release a photon. 
  • learnt about the processes involved in the manufacture of flexible solar panels, such as spinning the substrate with the active layer material added at incredibly high speeds, or printing, in order to get layers as thin as 100nm.
  • introduced to the idea of perovskites, materials with an ABX3 structure, where A is an organic molecule eg carbon and X is a halide such as chlorine, which have an ideal band gap to be used as an active layer. These allow the solar panel to be both flexible and so thin that they are almost transparent, which could give rise to possible applications in buildings e.g windows.
  • Solar thermal fields are an option when temperature is too high for photovoltaics to operate efficiently such as in the desert - using mirrors to focus light onto salt plains that then melt - as the molten salt cools, the energy can be used without worrying about fitting photovoltaics with cooling systems or replacing the materials as they degrade/melt due to the heat, saving labour, cost and materials.
  • linking with the problem of energy storage - electricity from solar power needs to be stored in batteries that must be affordable, safe, use non-toxic materials, and must be able to cope with higher energy quantities in peak times. Losses from the grid are around 20%, so there is a need to optimise this infrastructure, possibly using a 'borrowing and lending' system where energy is sold between areas of excess and deficit, or superconducting wires to avoid losses if these are developed to a point where they are affordable enough to be a feasible options. Countries that may not be as industry heavy may be a better option for photovoltaic energy because they do not need as large or constant a supply of electricity.
  • difficulty with implementing renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic technology due to the high cost of such when compared the the relatively cheap energy sources that are available to the country, regardless of the effect on the environment, such as Poland with their intensive use of coal due to the abundance of it in the country. Suggests a need for an economic intervention / programs that allow countries to set up the infrastructure for more renewable energy sources without the country having to independently fund such an endeavour.
I thought that the lecture was particularly interesting and pushed us to understand the complicated science behind it all.Marionette

Imperial College London

Listening to the different speakers was really interesting as they all had different approaches to the topic. Following the talks, we got a chance to witness a Li-ion battery charge, and we were able to calculate the charge of it using equations ourselves.Eridona, Alicem and Said

erasmus imperial college


2018 Physics Trip to CERN

On our annual visit, led this year by Mr Oakes, to the largest particle accelerator in the world, we had the pleasure of visiting one of the leading particle decelerators. The antimatter factory holds the record for the largest number of anti-matter atoms and looks to discover why there is not more antimatter in the observable universe. Fran Panteli reports on our activities on the trip.

On our annual visit, led this year by Mr. Oakes, to the largest particle accelerator in the world, we had the pleasure of visiting one of the leading particle decelerators. The antimatter factory holds the record for the largest number of anti-matter atoms and looks to discover why there is not more antimatter in the observable universe. Fran Panteli reports on our activities on the trip.

Situated in and underneath Geneva, CERN is home to particle detector such as ATLAS and ALICE and the LHC – the largest particle accelerator in the world; consisting of a torus of some 27 km diameter. In visiting this revolutionary site and its two museums, we learned about the colossal international collaboration of its over 20 member states. We were able to experience first handily the scale of this alliance, needed from the discovery subatomic particles such as the famed Higgs Boson, to CERNs creation of the World Wide Web in order to help process their some 25 petabytes of data produced per year.
After swimming in Geneva’s natural freshwater lake, Lac Léman, we were then treated to a boat ride across its waters. The quaintness of Geneva’s Old Town is prevalent as one walks through its streets, with mountains glistening in the horizon, which divide Geneva from the French border. Along the lines of these mountains were the faint lines of cable cars, which we used to ride up the mountain on the last day of our stay. From the top, we were subjected to stunning views of both Geneva and CERN, which words will do no justice. These views highlighted the extent to which CERNs application of physics is truly across all borders, encompassing some 10,000 scientists, PhD students and engineers from around the world. Thank you to everybody involved in this highly inspirational experience, thoroughly enjoyed.Fran Panteli
The Geneva trip was really relaxing which was great after exams and also educational about modern science, for example learning about the GBar experiment which hasn't even been switched on yet.Saskia
We all really enjoyed the trip. Geneva was stunning especially the lake. The trip to CERN was exciting as we saw things that we've learnt about in the classroom. The visit also allowed us to learn facts that we otherwise wouldn't of been able to find out. The weather was also great which was especially nice for swimming in the lake and going on the cable car.Maddie, Maya and Maisy
Visiting CERN was as educational as it was inspiring. This was far from the only highlight of the trip, as we experienced everything from Geneva's amazing lake Lac Leman to a cable car trip up Mont Salève with breath-taking views of Geneva. The trip was invaluable, both for those interested in Physics, as we were able to see the application of science by people at the top of their field, and for those who simply wanted to experience the city. Either way, a great trip is guaranteed.Robbie, Ethan, Jim
We really enjoyed our time at CERN. The tours were very informative and inspirational. The visit showed the beauty of the innovation of physics into the world, as well as the importance of engineering and technicians. The tours also helped me understand how the particle accelerator works which will help me with my research pag.Our visit to CERNs large hadron collider and the components of which the institution consisted of allowed me to see how and why something that we use everyday such as the Internet was created ,which was very interesting. Furthermore, in addition to the visit to CERN, we also got to enjoy the city of Geneva by participating in activities, such as swimming in 'Lac Leman' and exploring the 'Old Town'. Geneva was a city full of culture and passion and we won't ever forget this experience.Alicem, Eridona, Bedirhan, Naiden, Granit, Haider, Alex b, Marianna

Download a copy of the article