Secondary project briefs (ages 11+)

Bronze Awards are typically completed by students aged 11+. They complete a ten-hour project which is a perfect introduction to STEM project work. Over the course of the project, teams of students design their own investigation, record their findings, and reflect on their learnings. This process gives students a taste of what it is like to be a scientist or engineer in the real-world.

Silver Awards are typically completed by students aged 14+ over thirty hours. Project work at Silver level is designed to stretch your students and enrich their STEM studies. Students direct the project, determining the project’s aim and how they will achieve it. They carry out the project, record and analyse their results and reflect on the project and their learnings. All Silver projects are assessed by CREST assessors via our online platform.

Gold Awards are typically completed by students aged 16+ over seventy hours. Students’ projects are self-directed, longer term and immerse them in real research. At this level, we recommend students work with a mentor from their chosen STEM field of study. All Gold projects are assessed by CREST assessors via our online platform. There are more CREST approved resources that have been developed by our partners and providers specific to your region.

There are more CREST approved resources that have been developed by our partners and providers specific to your region.

Find out how to build practical CREST projects into secondary science lessons using our free teacher guidance pack. Supporting this guidance are easy-to-use, free-to-download mapping workbooks, which match individual Bronze, Silver and Gold CREST Award projects with each area of the secondary science curricula for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You can download and save your own copy of the relevant mapping workbook via the following links:


Northern Ireland



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4 years ago

Detecting drugs

  • Text
  • Analgesic
  • Detecting
  • Analgesics
  • Methods
  • Contain
  • Investigate
  • Concentration
  • Compounds
  • Various
  • Suitable
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Detecting drugs Tablets are usually white, and when powdered it is impossible to tell which is which by sight. This is the sort of problem that forensic scientists face. Is this cocaine, aspirin, or just icing sugar? In this project, in place of controlled drugs, you will use common analgesics (pain-relievers), such as aspirin. The aim of the project is to investigate methods of detecting specific drugs (analgesics in this case), and thus to decide which drugs, if any, an unidentified powder contains. Getting Started You should start with known samples and investigate how the analgesics can be detected and distinguished from each other. When you have learned to do this reliably, try identifying some powders that are known to your teacher, but not to you. These could contain one or more of the analgesics, or none. You can then move on to testing analgesics in solution, at progressively lower concentrations, to see what is the lowest concentration that you can detect. This simulates testing for drugs in a urine sample, for example. Choosing your samples: Your first task is to research several over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relievers, in other words, ones you can buy without a prescription. Find out what analgesic ingredients each contains. You should identify at least two analgesic compounds in addition to aspirin. You need brands of pain-reliever that contain each analgesic singly, and others which contain them in various combinations. Make a note of what is in each brand that you are going to test. Testing your tablets: You need to research, and then try out, ways of detecting your analgesic compounds in mixtures. Your teacher may need to help you to find suitable methods. Some that you find may not be feasible in your school laboratory. You could try: • Chemical tests for particular organic functional groups. Click to edit project description • Paper and/or thin-layer chromatography to separate and identify analgesic mixtures. • Colorimetry to measure the concentration of analgesic in solution - first you will need to find a way of converting the colourless analgesic into a coloured compound. Things to think about Professional analysts use various instrumental techniques to identify unknown samples. Your teacher may be able to help you make contact with an organisation where you can see these instruments in use, and maybe analyse some of your own samples. Before your visit you should read some background information about each technique, so that you understand what information each tells us about a sample. You do not need to understand how the instruments work. You should then be able to decide which techniques are likely to be most useful for detecting and identifying organic compounds such as analgesics and other drugs. Useful Resources You should be able to find suitable methods in chemistry books and on the internet. Look up information about drugs testing in sport to find out what concentrations are detectable in blood or urine samples professionally. Your results From the results of your investigations, suggest the most suitable methods for deciding whether white tablets found near an unconscious person contain an analgesic, and if so which. The results are needed as quickly as possible, so that the person can be given the correct medical treatment. Explain your reasons for your choices. Once you are able to detect and identify different analgesics, you can check the sensitivity of your methods. By progressively diluting an analgesic solution, determine the lowest concentration that your various methods can reliably detect.

Bronze level

Ten hour projects recommended for ages 11+. Find out more about this level and how to gain a CREST Award on the Bronze Awards page.

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Silver level

Thirty hour projects recommended for ages 14+. Find out more about this level and how to gain a CREST Award on the Silver Award page.

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Gold level

Seventy hour projects recommended for ages 16+. Find out more about this level and how to gain a CREST Award on the Gold Awards page

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