Israeli delegations performed impressively in two recent international “brain contests.” At the just-concluded Asian Physics Olympiad in China, Israeli students garnered a respectable six medals – two silver and four bronze. Meanwhile, at last week’s First Lego League Robotics contest in South Africa, a group of eighth and ninth graders from Modi’in came in second place.
The Asian Physics Olympiad is the regional prelude to the International Physics Olympiad, to be held in July, and where qualifying teams from over 80 countries around the world – including Israel – will gather to show off their theoretical and practical knowledge of kinematics, celestial mechanics, oscillators, Kirchhoff laws, Lorentz force and other physics esoterica.
The Asian Olympiad is considered one of the toughest regional physics competition, especially as most Asian countries teach theoretical sciences like physics in elementary school, so the Israel team had plenty of competition stacked against it. Nonetheless, in an unofficial ranking based on the number and level of medals won, Israel came in eighth in a pack of 23 countries, which included Turkey, Iran, Jordan, and most of central and east Asia. The winning team was from China, followed by Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Eight students from around the country participated in the event, with the delegation led by Dr. Eli Raz, head of the Department of Physics and Optical Engineering Braude College in Karmiel and professor of physics at the Technion, who sees the event “not as an end but as a way to create a group that will lead Israel in the field of science in the future.”
According to Dr. Ofer Rimon, head of the Science and Technology division of the Ministry of Education, Israel “considers encouraging excellence and the development of human capital as most important values. Science Olympic teams members are role models for other students and their success a tremendous contribution to the State of Israel and the entire education system.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s own ‘Kipabots’ – the robotics team of the Modi’in Amit Boys High School – came in second place in this year’s First Lego League Robotics Contest, in which participants must build a robot made out of Lego components only (except for the mechanism) to provide a solution to a “grand challenge,” this year concerning the future of learning. The achievement of the team was all the greater, because this FLL event – the Open African Championship – was by invitation only, with only top teams from the world participating.
The team used Lego, sensors and wireless technology to build mechanisms for a classroom of the future – technology which, the school said, it would use itself beginning next year. They have also presented their ideas to the Education Ministry, which is interested in adopting some of their ideas for schools in the country.
Congratulating the students on a job well done, Modi’in Mayor Haim Bibas wrote that the achievement “is a great source of pride for our educational system, our city and for the State of Israel.”