Individual Reflection

Pre-camp
Wynn: The fact that caffeine is a great part of many people lives, I was very interested to know more about caffeine. I will definitely learn more and I will look at things differently.

Vernen: The extraction of caffeine sounded very interesting to me, I felt that learning how things work in the chemistry lab would be quite cool.
Day 1
Wynn: After doing the extraction of caffeine from tea, I realised that it takes a lot of steps just to be able to get caffeine from tea.Three steps are needed- filtration, extraction and distillation.

Vernen: Today we did the extraction of caffeine. I learnt the complicated steps to extract through filtration and distillation. I felt very excited as I put on the lab coat and started doing the extraction I think that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I really enjoyed myself.

Gerald You's individual reflections
Pre-camp
I want to know how caffeine in original form can be produced, as there are many energy products on the market that requires a raw form of caffeine as an ingredient. It is all the more important, as caffeine should be carefully controlled in a product, and can only be done by utilising the powdered, pure form of caffeine. Anyway, caffeine is widely mentioned in today's advanced world, and is a chemical substance that has changed the way we lived in modern times, so it is important that we identify the risks and the benefits of caffeine, before we start the process of producing caffeine from an extremely caffeine-concentrated brew of tea.However, the process is long, according to my research on the internet.

Day 1
Today, we have concluded the programme on obtaining pure caffeine from tea, and it is not very simple as many people might think. Even using the a substance that might be harmful to sensitive skin, it needs to be done under supervised attention, and the process to extracting is very detailed. I dare not think that such a process is possible now, if advanced technology had not been developed. The process starts with brewing 25g of tea leaves with 250ml of water and 10g of sodium carbonate, gently boiling the mixture for 15 minutes. Next, under conditions set by the Teaching Assistants, vacuum filter the resulting mixture of any solids. After cooling the strained filtrate, pour the filtrate and 50ml dichloromethane into a clean separating funnel with the tap closed. After venting the funnel by opening the tap, to release any built up pressure, swirl the mixture once. Repeat the steps two more times. Then drain the organic layer into a clean, dry flask. Repeat the extraction process for 2 more times. Collect the organic layers, and add a spatula of anhydrous magnesium sulphate to remove any water residue. Swirl until the magnesium sulphate forms back into powder, and filter the dichloromethane mixture. On the consultation and assistance of a Teaching Assistant, do distil off the dichloromethane into dry, pure caffeine. Today, we also embarked on the Fastest Ball challenge, where we have to incline a horizontal track to a specific angle, so the time required for a metal ball to roll down the whole track would be minimal. We used a trial-and-error strategy to find out the least amount of time a ball can travel along the track with the help of two photogates. Although we have not started the actual competition, we have completed most of our research, and we wrapped up the day after which.

Day 2
Today, the competition on the Fastest Ball challenge was conducted, and there was a close battle between all teams. A competition on who could record the time of the metal ball  travelling between two photogates nearest to 1.2 and 1.4 was also embarked on. The last two competitions were on The Fastest Dive Challenge, where a team chose plastic figures from a selection in the box, in a bid to travel through a column of dishwashing liquid in the least time. The competitions were for the Heavyweight and Lightweight category. Although we finished dead last for two out of the first three competitions, we made up for the bad start for finishing second and first for the last two competitions respectively. This wrapped up the dual-project module for the NTU Flagship Programme, and we had to finish up all presentations and other administrative work for the day before we wrapped up. I feel that even though overall, we did not do quite well compared to other groups, we had tried our best and we had learnt interesting techniques that are valuable in the modern world of the 21st century. We were also put to the test on the many Science and Mathematics concepts that we had to apply while partaking in the competitions. 

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