Creative competition at Fairfield Prep makes fun out of measuring minutes

Creative competition at Fairfield Prep makes fun out of measuring minutes

10 May 2023

Mustard seeds, cous cous and bright pink sand were just some of the weird and wonderful materials used to attempt to measure time as part of Fairfield Prep School’s fascinating Minute Marvel competition.

Budding science and engineering buffs at the Prep School put their creative and innovation skills to the test whilst taking part in the STEM-based competition in which they had to design a mechanism that timed one minute as accurately as possible. Applying the core curriculum principles of curiosity, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking and challenge, the children had to be innovative in their approaches whilst applying their knowledge and skills.

The six pupils entering the competition had to showcase their completed design, demonstrating it accurately timing one minute. The children, who were from between years three and six then talked through their pre-prepared presentations to the head judge to explain the inspiration behind their idea, and how they were able to build the actual mechanism.

The models were built using a range of household materials including wood, plastic bottles, and even a garden hose nozzle! Water and sand appeared to be the most popular substances used to measure time, whilst one design even used a weighted pendulum mechanism to measure up to the one minute mark.

The judge took note of particularly innovative ideas, such as a design which incorporated bulbs that lit up when water had reached a certain level to indicate one minute had been measured. Creativity burst through many of the wonderful ideas which included painting the design in the branded colours of the Loughborough Schools Foundation.

To ensure complete fairness, each device was carefully timed three times, and an average taken from these measurements. Incredibly, the some of the designs accurately timed a minute within a second.

Martine Saperia, Head of Science at Fairfield Prep School and organiser of the event commented: “We were simply delighted by the creativity and precision of the children’s designs. We certainly have some budding engineers here at Fairfield.”

Todd Moseley, Head of Design at Loughborough Grammar School, was invited by Fairfield to judge the competition. He said: “It was fantastic to see such an array of innovative work on display. All the pupils had followed an iterative design process and arrived at unique solutions to effectively solve the same problem.

“Having generated multiple potential concepts, they had developed their chosen ideas by making considered choices about materials and techniques before testing these through modelling techniques.

“Their final prototypes effectively proved their ideas and the high-quality appearance of them showed that appearance had been equally considered alongside the function. Each pupil delivered an excellent presentation describing their idea and I look forward to seeing their future concepts with other challenges.”

Jamie Moseley, Deputy Head Academic at Fairfield Prep School, who helped organise the competition said: “I’m so impressed by the scientific thinking behind their ideas. Each child should be commended for applying our curriculum principles and learning with such palpable excitement.

“Clearly a huge amount of effort has gone into each design and it’s wonderful to see the curiosity and innovation sparked by the competition. Their presentations were also fantastic and clearly evidenced their thought processes. These children are the next generation of problem solvers”.

Todd, who judged the competition, details the winners: “In third place, with his traditional but incredibly accurate timer, was Matthew. Having carefully selected materials for his device, he used various tools to manufacture the design. Through repeated testing, he then accurately measured a minute to an average of 60.08 seconds!

“In joint first place due to their innovative solutions, high quality prototypes and informative presentations were Lizzie and Alexa. Lizzie used the principle of a grandfather clock and investigated pendulum systems to create her design. Using her scientific understanding of the concept, she created accurate components to make her device which acted just like an actual grandfather clock!

“Alexa used water to measure the time, which carefully raised a float covered in foil. A circuit was made which connected lights to show users when a minute had been achieved. Not only was her design accurate as well, but she had also further considered the form of her product by painting her design is the LSF colours!”

The Loughborough Schools Foundation is a foundation of four schools comprising: Fairfield Prep School (boys and girls 3–11), Loughborough Amherst School (boys and girls 4–18), Loughborough Grammar School (boys 10–18), and Loughborough High School (girls 11–18). The schools operate under one governing body and are situated on two neighbouring campuses in the town. The Foundation also includes The Loughborough Nursery for children from 6 weeks to 4 years.

For more information about the Loughborough Schools Foundation, please visit

Member Zone

Lost your password?
Find a school Login