Israeli delegation to Physics Olympics brought home gold, silver and bronze medals. (Photo: Dr. Eli Raz)
Israeli delegation to Physics Olympics brought home gold, silver and bronze medals. (Photo: Dr. Eli Raz)

The Israeli student team to the Physics Olympics in Bangkok has returned home with five medals: two gold, two silver, and one bronze. The high school students ranked 13th overall (out of 84 countries), in the event considered to be one of the most important in the field of science. 

The five student representatives from schools in Petah Tikva, Modi’in, Mazkeret Batya and Netanya, trained at the Technion Institute in Haifa before setting out to the competition.

“It was nice to win the medal. The truth is that I didn’t expect to beat the Chinese and in reality I was even surprised,” said gold medal winner Gal Dor, a student from the Ahad Ha’am High School in Petah Tikva.

“The uniqueness of the Israeli team was that we were able to solve questions in a non-standard way and manner. Our guys used their creativity, which is our weapon, and so Gal Dor, one of the two who won a gold medal, was able to get 29.5 points out of 30 on the theoretical part and pass the four Chinese participants in a competition in which the Chinese usually take first place. Dor also scored higher that the five members of the American team,” said Dr. Eli Raz, a visiting professor in physics at the Technion and the head of the Department of Physics and Optical Engineering at ORT Braude College and responsible for preparing the delegation.

“If you think about the fact that every country sends five competitors, try to imagine what a tremendous advantage the Chinese have when choosing the top five from among a billion and a half people, compared to us who only have seven million residents and we must choose the best five.” 

The KipaBots won first place overall in the competition in Rechovot before heading to South Africa. (Photo from Indiegogo campaign site)
The KipaBots won first place overall in the competition in Rechovot before heading to South Africa. (Photo from Indiegogo campaign site)

Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation of 13 eighth-graders recently won second place overall at the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) tournament in South Africa. The team, from the AMIT boy’s high school in Modi’in, the only Israeli team at the contest, was honored for designing a futuristic classroom.

The international robotics team competition, for kids aged nine to 16, is a partnership between LEGO Company and the US-based organization FIRST.

“This Lego-robotics group includes very advanced level students who are self-motivated learners, with tremendous drive, passion and commitment,” reads a statement on the Israeli school’s website. “Although these students are only in the 8th grade, they are already striving to be the next generation of Israeli technology entrepreneurs, and with the hard work and vision they have already shown, along with the education they are receiving at AMIT, they are truly on a path toward success.”

The FIRST LEGO league mission is threefold: Introduce children to the fun and excitement of science and technology; Develop children’s abilities to work in teams; and stimulate children’s use of creativity in the problem solving process.

The Modi’in team, known as KipaBots, won first place in the research and contribution to society category. The group, which was up against 44 teams from 23 countries in the contest, won second place overall for their plan to make the physical classroom environment more suitable for learning with the use of new technology and layout of the classroom.

Their futuristic classroom idea will be built next year in their school.

The KipaBots launched a crowdfunding campaign to support their trip to South Africa. They have not yet made their $2,500 goal and though they have already competed, the team is hoping to still cover its costs with help from the community.

And finally, a team of birders from the Israel Ornithological Center of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) won first place in the World Series of Birding competition in New Jersey. The event is the world’s largest birding contest.

The Israeli ornithology team identified 157 species flying over Cape May in 24 hours, more than any other team.