Creativity, books and geometry: another full day!

Today has been yet another day of learning and fun with Major classes this morning with our amazing faculty.

Mock Trial

International Espionage here at CamPrep teamed up with the Espionage class at the Cambridge Tradition in order to take part in a mock trial based on the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The husband and wife duo were tried in 1951 for treason and conspiracy to commit espionage, related to the passing of information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. The pair were found guilty and executed in 1953. Today’s mock trial took place in the Hawks’ Club in Cambridge, which is the club for the elite sportsmen of the University of Cambridge. The students were fully engaged with the trial, and eventually the CamPrep team managed to win the trial. Stay tuned for photos!

Castle Mound with Creative Writing

Both the Major and Minor Creative Writing classes took a trip to Castle Mound on the outskirts of Cambridge today. Becky, our Creative Writing teacher, wanted students to think about things from a different perspective or point of view. It was a beautiful, still day and the views from the top were spectacular; students were really able to think outside the creative bubble and see things in an alternative way.

After this morning’s Major classes, students have once again dived headlong into an afternoon of activities…

Parker Library Visit

This afternoon, a group of students took a trip to the Parker Library in Corpus Christi College. The Parker Library is the rare books and manuscripts library of Corpus Christi, and it has a range of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, and early printed books. Students were led round by the library’s curator, a lively and engaging speaker, who told everyone about the library’s history and contents. The library was named after its greatest benefactor, Archbishop Matthew Parker, who donated a large collection of early manuscripts and books. Today the group got to see some original Anglo-Saxon 1,000 year old manuscripts from around the time of the venerable Bede. They also saw a letter from Elizabeth 1 to the Archbishop in a collection of his letters, which also included letters from Henry V111. The group was delighted by the beautiful illuminated manuscripts on display and learned about the precious materials used to give colour to these ancient texts. The curator talked about the preservation techniques they use and about book-binding techniques throughout the ages. Students saw some of the first printed books, while learning about what happened to traditional manuscripts when printing was introduced.

Everyone had a chance to see the manuscripts and books up close, and even handled some of the items on display. The students were wowed by the history, ambience and grandeur of this magnificent treasure trove of historical texts and thoroughly enjoyed learning about all that the curator could tell them. Here is just a sneak peek of what went on:

A group of students went with our AD, Pete, to the bowling alley to knock down a few pins. Amidst the lights, music and slot machines, games were won and lost with gutter-balls, spares and even the odd strike! Everyone had a fabulous time!

Professor Chris Sangwin

“Thinking Mathematically: How Round is Your Circle?”

This afternoon, students from a number of different major classes were treated to a talk by Professor Chris Sangwin. Chris is Professor of Mathematics Education at Edinburgh University and before that he was a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education in the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University. From 2000-2011 he was seconded part-time to the UK Higher Education Academy “Maths Stats and OR Network” to promote learning and teaching of university mathematics. In 2006 he was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship. His learning and teaching interests include the automatic assessment of mathematics using computer algebra, in particular the development of the STACK system, and also problem solving using Moore method and similar student-centred approaches. Chris is the author of a number of books, including “How Round is Your Circle?”, which illustrates and investigates many links between mathematics and engineering using physical models.

In his talk today, Professor Sangwin discussed the complex problem of defining a circle, and how there are many different shapes which have the property of having the same width in all directions. This can cause problems in engineering, for example in the 1986 Space Shuttle disaster, which was partially a result of mismatching sections of the supposedly circular rocket booster. The problem arises when trying to test for the ’roundness’ of components using equal width as the test. One way to deal with this problem that has been devised by engineers is to use a ‘V’ block and test whether rotating the given shape moves a third point of measurement. However, Professor Sangwin and colleagues have found a shape that will fool even this test. Engineers are currently working on new tests that will not be fooled by these special shapes. Sangwin ended his talk by telling everyone that this is how science progresses, with people asking difficult questions, finding problems and searching for solutions.

All the students really enjoyed the talk, especially considering the fact that Sangwin made it interactive with volunteers getting to go up on stage and help with demonstrations. After the talk, everyone was given the opportunity to have a look at the props, and to observe how some non-spherical objects can roll smoothly on a flat surface. The students were full of questions and fully engaged with the talk.

Love’s Labour’s Lost


Pete took a group of students to Downing College gardens to see the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost. The setting was beautiful as the evening drew in. Everyone enjoyed the light Shakespearean comedy, which produced ripples of laughter through the audience. Yet again, the Shakespeare Festival did not disappoint!

For those who wanted to relax in front of a good film, there was a film night in the theatre this evening. Students watched The Theory of Everything, the extraordinary story of Stephen Hawking and his battle with motor neurone disease, set against the backdrop of his rise from his beginnings as a Cambridge student to world-renowned professor of physics.

Tomorrow, we have both Major and Minor classes here at CamPrep, and then there is a talk on Ancient Egypt with Dr Nigel Strudwick, yet more craft and sport, and Ted talks from our very own CamPrep students in the evening. We look forward to telling you all about the fun, laughter and learning that will inevitably begin again tomorrow.

~The CamPrep Team