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Rice to the Challenge - A joint research project ; Rice to the Challenge: What factors affect the levels of arsenic and calcium in cooked rice?

Students from Year 8 from the lead school at New College School and Oxford Spires Academy worked in groups of six to devise their own investigation into the factors affecting the arsenic and calcium levels in cooked rice. As part of this investigation, school-age students used a scientific method to design their investigation, cook rice, digest cooked rice in 2% nitric acid and undertake data analysis, before drawing conclusions, which were presented to their peers, parents/guardians and the STEM partner. (By video due to COVID19)

• Possible factors investigated were cooking method, rice origin, additives, yet the investigation is student-led and based on their own curiosity.
• Arsenic levels were  determined using ICP-MS.
• Calcium levels were determined using UV-Vis spectroscopy.
• Students completed a calibration curve to understand the principles behind the use of ICP-MS and UV-Vis

The project was 3, three hour sessions in schools and in the University, plus cooking rice  at home and in one Science lesson, a 2 hour conference and assembly. 


Joint Project to provide students  with Academic Research oppprtunity. To make  Science purposeful and relatable. To enable them to access the OU labs and  be mentored by UGS.

The immediate and global implications are manifold if the project is expanded which is the idea.

Joint working of like minded students on a real research project.

Access to Oxford University and staff.


DEP identified the Royal Society Grant opportunity for such a project and then approached a partner school and an NCS  parent also a Chemistry Professor and Govermor at NCS at OU. DEP then followed this up with the outreach officer at OU Chemistry Faculty, who together with a 4th Year Masters student helped design the project.

This is the first OU joint project.

Funding is being applied for through the partnership grant scheme at the RS to support a continuation of this project. This will allow schools to re stock their Science labs with specialist equipment. 


The Chemistry Lab at OU to provide specialist equipment

School Science equipment and lab.

Teaching staff to lead and supervise pupils and OU student ambassadors, sixth form mentors and OU lecturers/outreach team.

No financial contribution needed but students had to find their own way to and from the labs


Through a Science conference and research follow up sheets to parents and students. A student questionnaire was planned but COVID19 affected this.

Feedback was gathered by the Masters student who ran the project. 

Pupil Involvement

Fully involved from designing the investigation to choosing method, weighing and cooking rice, using specialist equipment, analysing  data and presenting findings. 

Mixed gender

Year 8 and two Year 12 mentors.


The plan is to apply for funding to continue the project with other schools each year. 

Funding for the following lists of equipment is being applied for to enable three schools to continue the project next year. We are applying for a partnership grant from the RS.  Stage One of the grant has been approved by the Royal Society.

Item Total no. req'd Notes Price / unit Unit qty. Units req'd. Total cost Portable colourimeters 12 4 per school £500 4 3 £1,500
Graduated pipettes (1 mL) 30 10 per school £8 5 6 £47
Graduated pipettes (2 mL) 30 10 per school £8 5 6 £47
Graduated pipettes (10 mL) 30 10 per school £8 5 6 £47

Pipette fillers (2 mL) 30 10 per school £8 1 30 £251 Pipette fillers (10 mL) 30 10 per school £8 1 30 £251
10 mL volumetric flasks 180 60 per school £3 2 90 £304 50 mL volumetric flasks 75 25 per school £5 2 38 £204 Cuvettes 300 100 per school £5 100 3 £15
Cuvette holders 6 5 per school £15 1 15 £225
Vials 600 100 per school £12 100 6 £72