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



To browse the briefs, click the buttons below or scroll down.

4 years ago

Measuring alcohol levels

  • Text
  • Ethanol
  • Measuring
  • Urine
  • Levels
  • Aqueous
  • Dichromate
  • Investigate
  • Artificial
  • Detect
  • Concentration
This resource is published under an Attribution - non-commercial - no derivatives 4.0 International creative commons licence ( For more information visit our Terms and Conditions (

Click to edit project

Click to edit project description

Page 1 of 2 Measuring alcohol levels In much of the UK, it is illegal to drive if the alcohol level in your blood is above 80 mg per 100 ml, about 0.08%. In Scotland, the legal limit is 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. We therefore need ways to determine whether a person is ‘over the limit’. The aim of this project is to find out how a suspect’s alcohol level can be measured. You will investigate simple chemical tests, and more sophisticated methods. Getting Started Start with simple aqueous solutions of ethanol, and progress to testing for ethanol dissolved in artificial urine. This project concerns ‘ethanol’, the alcohol present in drinks. However, the ethanol you use for testing has had methanol added. It is toxic and is not drinkable. Qualitative tests: Try out, chemical tests for alcohols, including reduction of dichromate ions. Are any of these specific to ethanol, or do they detect alcohols in general? By progressive dilution, determine the lowest concentration of aqueous ethanol that you can detect. Is it low enough to detect the legal limit? What would be the problems in applying such tests to a driver’s blood or urine sample? You could try testing alcohol dissolved in artificial urine instead of in water. Quantitative tests: Devise, and try out, a method of adapting one of the above tests to measure the concentration of ethanol in an aqueous solution, not just detect it. Colorimetry might help: Again, test whether you could measure concentrations at least down to the legal limits. Click to edit project description Explain whether the method could be used with blood or urine samples. Devise, construct and test an alcohol analyser. This could be a portable breathtester, or a piece of laboratory apparatus, such as a simple gas chromatograph. Initially, aim to distinguish between ‘pass’ and ‘fail’, for example test samples with ethanol levels half and double the legal limit. The next step would be to calibrate your device, and then to measure samples with concentrations known to your teacher, but not to you. Things to think about The reduction of dichromate was used as the basis of the original breath-in-abag ‘Breathalyser’. Find out how it measured, rather than just detected, the ethanol in breath. The dichromate reaction is not specific to ethanol. Why is it reasonable to assume that ethanol is the only alcohol likely to be present in a person’s breath? The legal limit for ethanol in breath is 35 μg per 100ml or 22 μg in Scotland (μg = microgram). Some people claimed that eating pickled onions would beat the Breathalyser - devise a way to test this theory. Useful Resources Local police may be willing to show you their breath alcohol meters. You should also link up with an organisation that uses appropriate instrumental analysis (though not necessarily for ethanol), so that you can see the instruments in use, and maybe analyse some of your own samples. Recipes for artificial urine can be found on the internet. Measuring ethanol concentration in blood or urine is more complex than in an aqueous solution. It needs a quantitative method that is specific to ethanol and unaffected by other substances in the mixture. Miniaturisation and electronics have allowed some laboratory techniques to be incorporated into portable alcohol meters. These are used not only by police, but also in the rail and airline industries and other workplaces. If you have made external links, why not use these to investigate these methods?

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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