The objective of a competition is usually to perform faster, higher, stronger or longer. But in a Hebrew University of Jerusalem contest for students on electricity and magnetism, the challenge was to build the “slowest engine” – with more than 80 students competing at the Givat Ram campus.

The first prize offered by course lecturer Dr. Nadav Katz was lunch with other lecturers in their private dining room on campus.

In the end, Eyal Abramovitz built an engine that made one rotation every 90 minutes, winning the award and much admiration from colleagues.

The quality of the faculty’s dining hall meal is not known, but Abramovitz and his hosts had plenty to talk about.

Designing an engine that works very slowly is no less complicated an engineering feat than building a fast one, said Katz. “The students used the same physical principles as they would have to build the fastest engine, but they were forced to go to the opposite extreme and show plenty of creativity.”

Katz added that in the last two weeks, engineering students showed much enthusiasm for the challenge and built many types of tortoise-paced engines. “They tried to squeeze tips out of the lecture team, but in fact, there is no one way to do it. Our aim was not to limit the students but to make them free to explore their wildest ideas.”

The lecturers also wanted to “add spice” to their teaching work. “There is no doubt that it’s more interesting to have direct contact with students this way. The aims of the competition contributed to our curiosity, and we have no doubt that the students surprised themselves with their creative and successful models,” Katz said.