Three members of Team Israel won bronze medals at the oldest – and perhaps toughest – high school competition. The International Chemistry Olympiad, held at the end of July in Baku, Azerbaijan, saw 330 kids from 75 countries rack their brains to come up with the correct answers to problems in chemistry, where the right combination produces a reaction that helps make life better – while the wrong one can injure, or worse.
Now in its 47th year, the IChO is the granddaddy of international academic challenges for high school students, combining theoretical knowledge with practical skills. IchO is a much more difficult contest than other Olympiads like math, say organizers, because of its practical components. In this year’s contest, teams were asked to use chemicals in order to synthesize material (specifically, monobrominated thiophene derivative) and identify unknown elements.
In the final results, reviewed by top chemistry faculty of Moscow State University (Baku branch), graders said that “all mistakes that are typical of these experiments were found in the work of students.”
The Israeli medal winners were Itai Zvieli, a 12th grader from Haifa; Nadav Ginnosar, an 11th grader from Modiin; and Ran Solan, a 10th grader from Rishon Lezion. The students were trained and led by Professor Zeev Gross of the Technion’s chemistry faculty as well as Dr. Izana Nigel-Ettinger and Mira Katz, also of the Technion. The students also worked closely with other Techion faculty to prepare for the event.
“The content the students were tested on in the Olympiad was very advanced, and far ahead of the chemistry taught in Israeli high schools,” said Gross. “We worked very hard to achieve our goals, and I am very happy we were able to win three bronze medals.”
Most of the gold and silver medals were won by students from Asian countries, with the top student hailing from Uzbekistan.
“The medals are just a bonus,” added Gross. “The real benefit is the increased awareness of the importance of science in general, and of chemistry in particular. During these contests, students garner a great deal of knowledge and experience that will serve them well later in life, equipping them for key positions in academia and industry.”