Although Israeli pupils' scores on comparative international tests in science, reading and math have been mediocre for a couple of decades, the quality of contestants in the Young Scientists Competition at Jerusalem's Bloomfield Science Museum rises impressively from year to year. Fifty-two teenagers who have presented 40 projects ranging from nanotechnology and robots to improved cardiac rehabilitation and logic among schizophrenia patients are competing for the top prize, which will be presented on Wednesday at Beit Hanassi by President Shimon Peres. Now in its 12th year, the competition is sponsored by Intel-Israel, the museum and the Education Ministry. The top prizes are academic scholarships, participation in the Israel Institute of Technology-Technion's summer camp, invitations to compete at World Intel's science competition (in Reno, Nevada, in May) and visits with scientists in Germany. The contestants, chosen from among hundreds of peers, received support during their projects' development from teachers and even university professors. The projects are in the field of life sciences, environment, technology, computers, mathematics, natural sciences, history and social sciences - some theoretical but most with important practical applications. The judges' panels are headed by Hebrew University Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, a former HU president and an expert on Albert Einstein; the 130th anniversary of the birth of the great physicist (March 14) and the Young Scientists Competition purposely coincide. On Tuesday, the projects were presented by the teenagers, who were grilled by the judges with tough questions. The panels were very impressed.
Shahar Gvirtz and Yadid Algawi of the AMIT Ginsburg Technological Institute-Gush Dan in Ramat Gan presented the technique they developed to expose dried plants to microwaves, making it possible to remove almost entirely any lead contaminants in water. The inexpensive technique, for which they used an ordinary home microwave oven, can be adapted to industrial use, they told The Jerusalem Post.
Hanna Sosnaa, a pupil at the Mevo'ot Maritime School in Michmoret, studied environmental influences that determine the gender of sea turtles, which are declining in numbers. The length of time that the mother sits on the eggs, water temperature and the depth of the nest are among the key factors, she determined.
Ida Kreychman of the Begin School in Safed studied genetic mutations in one of the genes that express the BRCA1 and BRCA2 proteins that increase the risk of breast cancer in younger women. She found a screening method that can predict with high accuracy which women with a family history are likely to develop the disease.
Moamen Massalha, Mahmoud Massalha and Masoud Mahajna from a high school in Umm el-Fahm designed an inexpensive device that enables heart patients to monitor their blood pressure and heartbeat while on a treadmill at home; it identifies when exercise causes them chest pain and other symptoms and helps them choose a suitable exercise program.
Qasem Sharqawi, Ahmed Sharkia and Nadim Shourabji of the same school in Umm el-Fahm developed a cheap computerized mannikin that teaches cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the layman with instant feedback presented on a computer screen.
Aviya Cohen of Beersheba, who is performing her national service in Ra'anana - has said she has been transfixed by the pre-state Lehi (Stern Group) underground leader Avraham "Yair" Stern. She prepared a comparison of her hero with Elazar Ben-Yair, the leader of the rebellion atop Masada against the Romans. Although her own political views are right wing, she said she respects left-wing politicians who "care about people and stand by their principles."
She also wrote a poem in Stern's memory and interviewed his son, journalist Yair Stern.