Intel-Israel’s Young Scientists dazzle with teen knowledge

Panel will announce who among the 60 finalists will receive the top three prizes – university scholarships in the fields of their choice.

Young Scientists 311 (photo credit: Judy Siegel Itzkovitch)
Young Scientists 311
(photo credit: Judy Siegel Itzkovitch)
The levels of high school pupils’ understanding in medicine, mathematics, life and environmental sciences, computers, technology, history and social sciences in the Intel-Israel Young Scientists Competition have risen unrecognizably in the last 14 years.
So agreed this year’s judging panel, headed by world-renowned Hebrew University physicist and Albert Einstein expert Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, who went from one teen or group to another, listening to their explanations and examining poster displays and homemade models at Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Science Museum on Tuesday.
The panel will announce on Wednesday who among the 60 finalists will receive the top three prizes – university scholarships in the fields of their choice. President Shimon Peres will congratulate the winners at a ceremony at the Hebrew University in the afternoon.
High achievers will also represent Israel in Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair abroad in a few months and have the chance to participate in the European Union Content for Young Scientists. Those with the most original and applicable ideas could end up with patent applications that might make them a profit out of their projects.
Among the potential Intel-Israel winners are Gal Oren and Nerya Stroh of the Jerusalem College of Technology Torah & Science Yeshiva High School, who last year received one of the five top prizes in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and were cited by Sweden’s ambassador to Israel for their invention of device that measures household water consumption to detect dripping and avoid waste.
Intel-Israel’s Yishai Fraenkel, a judge in the competition, held to mark National Science Week and the anniversary of Einstein’s birth, said that he was very pleased by the high standards shown by the teenagers.
Asked why this was the first Intel-Israel Young Scientists Competition in many years not to include a single Arab as a finalist, Fraenkel said he regretted this but said clearly that there were no politics or other such reasons why a fifth of the Israeli population had no representation this year. He hoped high-achieving Arab youths would return in the 15th competition in 2012.
In this year’s competition, teenagers were given considerably more exhibition space in the museum’s newer branch and were able to explain the principles of their findings more comfortably. The two halls that were last used for The Deep undersea creature exhibition were divided by category – humanities, social sciences, mathematics and computers, natural sciences, medicine and other fields – thus making comparisons of the student exhibits easier.
Among the projects displayed was a study of the effects of extreme diets on pregnant mice and the effects in their offspring, which found that mice on a high-fat diet, for example, were much less likely to become pregnant in the first place.
A Lod pupil examined electrical failures and irregular heartbeat in infants, while a team from Ma’aleh Adumim devised a piping system that conserves water that usually would go down the drain while waiting until baths or showers became hot, by returning water that’s not heated enough back to its source.
One pupil was an expert in Prolog computer language, while a team of three designed a robot model that could act as a waiter to serve the disabled.
A team of high school pupils have become the first ever to get permission from the Israeli authorities to launch their own mini-satellite – just 10 centimeters in each dimension – into the upper atmosphere.
In a fitting subject for the day when everyone around the country was asked to take five minutes to remember Gilad Schalit’s five years in which the soldier has been held in Gaza, one pupil investigated religious and secular views on exchanging terrorists for Israeli captives.