Year 12 pupils from the Writhlington School Orchid Project have won first prize (Science and Maths) for their age group at the National Science and Engineering Competition (NSEC). Five pupils Matthew Bell, Devin Read, Heather Limond, Zoe Barnes and Ike Shackleton attended the competition finals at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham where they spent two days last month presenting their project for judging. The competition is held annually to find the best of the UK’s young scientists and engineers and just 400 school pupils from thousands make it through to the finals.
Their entry From Rainforest to Botanic Garden outlined their research investigating micro-habitat conditions of epiphytic orchids in Sikkim and relating these to effective culture in the UK.
This covered growing the orchids at the school, and also the design and installation of two bespoke orchid trees planted up for the Garden's February Orchid Festival with material cultivated by the team after field study in Sikkim during Easter 2013. In Sikkim, the WSOP pupils worked with Takse School in Gangtok. Devin explained, “We each studied the habitat of a charismatic Himalayan orchids species and used the data we collected to make recommendations about growing the plants successfully in cultivation”.
In Cambridge, the WSOP team also gave workshops on orchid science for botanic garden staff and pupils and teachers from Cambridgeshire schools.
Heather added, “The judges were particularly impressed with the different ways we had presented our data. It remains available in poster format from the link to the left as well as in published articles. We hope that our work will both help people to grow the species better and protect wild populations through education and understanding of these amazing plants.”