Skip to main content

Build a language out of Lego – one of four great new Caius prizes for sixth formers

  • 07 March 2018

Could you devise a new language –and build it out of Lego bricks? How about coming up with a new project to teach younger students to address recycling challenges using real-life engineering techniques? Or could you write the biography of an object to help bring history to life?

These thought-provoking challenges are part of a growing suite of exciting prizes launched today by Gonville & Caius, all designed to prompt Year 12 students to think creatively and individually about the subjects they love. To an English Essay Prize and Linguistics Challenge, introduced last year, we’ve added a History Prize and an Engineering Challenge.

Each of the four prizes is open to Lower Sixth Form students in any UK school, and the winners of each will be rewarded with cash prizes for themselves and their schools. Each competition carries a first prize of £600, to be split equally between the winning candidate and his or her school or college, and a second prize of £400, which again is to be shared equally between the candidate and school. Up to three further entries of a high quality will be commended in each of the four categories.

The aim of the Caius prizes is to spark your imagination, offering intriguing challenges that we hope will get you thinking. We have also aimed to make the tasks as accessible as possible – for the English Essay Prize, for example, you might choose to review any new literary material or visual art, from dance performances and TV shows to novels and poetry. Pick something first published or performed within the last 12 months – we want to hear fresh and original thinking that goes where few, if any, reviewers have trodden before.

The intriguing Linguistics Challenge is designed to introduce you to this fascinating but often misunderstood subject, which draws on methods and knowledge from a whole range of disciplines to explore the mysteries of human language. Our challenge sets you the task of using Lego blocks (or an online version of them) to literally “build” a communications system complex enough to guide someone around a map we provide. You can be as imaginative as you like: take inspiration from any language in the world to devise a structure, and play with colour and shape to convey meaning (and you can always enjoy playing with the blocks while you’re thinking!).

The History Prize invites you to take a similarly creative approach: here, we’d like you to pick an object and tell its life story in an “object biography”. In between 500 and 1,000 words, explore the object in its historical context, asking who made it and how, who bought or owned it, and how did it find its way to a museum or collection. You might choose an object you have at home, or play virtual collector and pick something intriguing from your local museum – or any museum online. You can choose any object – something as old as an Anglo Saxon sword or a Medieval map, or a far more modern item such as rotary dial telephone. Whatever you choose, you’ll be thinking like a historian as you explore what an analysis of objects can bring to the study of history. Watch our short film to find out more.

The problem-solving skills required of an engineer are what’s needed to enter our Engineering Challenge. We’d like you to create an activity suitable for students in Year 11 (think of yourselves last year!), that will use engineering techniques to address the issue of household waste recycling – highly topical as we consider how to use less plastic and packaging. You might want students to explore the scale of the problem, or methods of sorting recyclable items, or take a more mathematical approach and investigate the costs and benefits involved.

All the information you need to enter all four of the competitions can be found on our website. You’ll find more details of each challenge, and a coversheet you’ll need to submit your work. If you like, you can enter more than one competition, but you can only enter each one once. The closing date for all four prizes is 29 May 2018. Good luck, and enjoy the challenge!


If you have any questions about the prizes, please get in touch here.

Share Share