Fourteen primary schools spread across Cambridgeshire, Essex, and Suffolk participated in the 2020 Science Image Award competition, with the winning image taken by a child at Barnham Primary School near Thetford.
Part of the LMB’s Microscopes for Schools outreach project, the Science Image Award is a competition aiming to stimulate scientific curiosity in primary school children by connecting the microscopic world to everyday life. Each school borrows a small, digital microscope for two weeks, during which time children can observe and take images of anything they find outside, such as flowers, insects, and feathers. The schools then submit their top ten images to the competition. Although curtailed by the pandemic, 14 schools were able to take part in the project prior to school closure in March 2020.
Entries for this year’s competition were of an impressively high standard, making it very difficult to shortlist and select a winner. LMB emeritus scientist Brad Amos, a developer of innovative microscopy systems, had the task of judging the images and assessed them on both quality and originality without knowing which image came from which school.
Selecting first place, which went to an image of a bee wing, Brad commented, “The composition has been very carefully arranged so that this difficult specimen has detail in focus almost everywhere.” As the winner of the competition, Barnham Primary School has been awarded with a digital microscope kindly donated by the competition sponsors, Brunel Microscopes Ltd.
The second placed image, of multiple flower buds, was taken by a child at Petersfield Primary School in Orwell. Brad noted, “The choice of focal level and the overall composition of this elegant image are perfect. Choosing an area where the longitudinal axes of all the buds are parallel makes the graceful shape and symmetry of the buds plain.” Petersfield Primary receives the second prize of ten wooden microscopes, donated by Echo.
Barnham Primary also receives the third prize of five wooden microscopes from Echo for their image of a catkin with Brad praising the “superb composition and highly interesting detail”. Due to the large number of skilfully-taken images, Brad also named some runner-up images from Petersfield Primary, Manuden Primary, Dry Drayton Primary, and Westfield Junior Schools.
In total, more than 700 children were able to take part in the competition and one teacher commented, “The competition gave the pupils a purpose to explore and discover”.
Although the current school closure has disrupted plans for the 2021 Science Image Award, the competition is planned to go ahead during the Summer Term with a slightly reduced capacity. In 2022, the competition’s leads Simon Bullock and Jon Howe plan to expand the competition and bring this opportunity to a wider selection of children, particularly in areas where fewer children end up going on to higher education.