High-school students try to pick a lock to secure a future in science. (Screen grab from YouTube)
High-school students try to pick a lock to secure a future in science. (Screen grab from YouTube)

History’s best safecrackers — Roy Saunders, Jeff Sitar and Eddie Chapman — would probably find it difficult to believe that the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot is holding a contest for high school students dedicated to picking locks. But the Shalhevet Freyer International Physics Tournament is legit and will pit dozens of physics majors against one another as they vie for the title of best “break and enter” gang.

Though the contest may sound criminal in intent, it’s actually meant to entice students into a life of science and to promote science as a team sport. The international side of the competition adds a cultural experience, too.

Each team must build a safe and break into as many of those constructed by others as possible. The winning team will be judged on the best use of scientific principles in building their safe-locking mechanism, on the “crackability” of their safe, as well as the originality and aesthetics of their submission.

The high school students must draw on principles of physics, electronics, engineering, mechanics, hydraulics and a mix of them all, when designing and building their safes.

Teams from Israel, Slovenia, Austria, the United States, Canada, England, Romania and Spain are competing for the title at this year’s 20th International Physics Tournament (March 24-25, 2015) at the Davidson Institute of Science Education, the educational arm of the Weizmann Institute.

This year is the first time US students will take part in the international contest, with seven teams in the competition.

The students are encouraged to think out of the box and be creative in their safecracking methods.

Israel used to be known for exporting its oranges; now we are known for exporting our minds,” Dr. Ariel Heimann, director general of the Davidson Institute, told the Las Vegas-Review Journal

The contest pits 11th– and 12th-grade students against one another. The visiting teams had to win first place in similar competitions in their own countries in order to win a spot in the Israeli contest.

Last year, a team from Hadarim School in Hod HaSharon took first place. The second-place winner was DeShalit School, Rehovot; third place was Gimnazija Nova Gorica from Slovenia; fourth place was B’nai Akiva Or Chaim from Toronto, Canada; and fifth place was won by Yeshivat B’nei Akiva, Netanya.

Watch a video of the 2014 contest here: