High Schoolers Make the Grade
October 9, 2008
Polish high school students won one gold and two bronze medals and received three special commendations in this year's International Conference for Young Scientists (ICYS) in Ukraine. They also brought home a bronze medal from May's International Young Physicists Tournament (IYPT) in Croatia, which attracted competitors from 24 countries.
This year's ICYS competition, the fifteenth to date, was held in April in Ukraine. Competition subjects included mathematics, physics, computer science, and ecology. High school students from 14 countries took part.
Among the Polish competitors were the winners of a nationwide Physics and Ecology competition and a nationwide tournament for young physicists.
"The students that took part in the ICYS had a unique opportunity during the competition and workshops to demonstrate their knowledge and to compare international schooling programs and trends," said Urszula Woźnikowska-Bezak, chairwoman of Poland's ICYS organizing committee.
Two jury panels, one from the University of Silesia and the other from the Silesian University of Technology, chose the research work that was entered into the ICYS.
Przemysław Elias and Michał Psota from High School No. 1 in Wodzisław Śląski won the gold medal in the Scientific Model category for their robot with artificial intelligence. Mateusz Pelesz from Wałbrzych's High School No. 3 won the bronze medal in the Physics and Ecology category for his analysis of tree rings in the context of climate change. Piotr Sochacki, from the same school as Elias and Psota, received the bronze medal in the Technical Physics category. He carried out research on the adhesive properties of certain liquids. Aleksandra Mrozińska and Milena Gott-Konopacka, from the ZSO school in Pawłowice, received a commendation for their work on noise pollution in the Physics and Ecology category. Michał Fita from High School No. 1 in Wieluń received a commendation for his paper on radioactivity caused by coal-fired power plants. Kamil Dudek from High School No. 2 in Katowice received a commendation in the Technical Physics category for his analysis of acoustic resonators.
"The presentation of papers at the ICYS is a lesson in teamwork and getting results and also a search for low-budget solutions to serious problems," said Paweł Ściegienny, one of the Polish competitors.
Cezary Filipiuk, a physics teacher from High School No. 1 in Pszczyna, said, "Participating in the competition depends on doing research and this is a bit like playing at being a scientist."
Filipiuk's students have entered the ICYS three times. Jakub Wyrobek, currently studying physics at Cracow's Jagiellonian University, won an ICYS physics gold medal in 2005 in Katowice. In 2006 in Stuttgart, Bartosz Janczak and Karolina Janczak won bronze medals. A year later in St. Petersburg, Justyna Chromik received a gold medal, and Karolina Janczak won a bronze one. This year's Polish ICYS competitors also included Przemysław Banasik, Iwona Borowa, and Jakub Polewka.
The International Young Physicists Tournament (IYPT) in Croatia in May required competitors to come up with solutions to previously set problems. An international jury interviewed the contestants and then assessed their work.
All the students who participated in the Polish finals in Katowice and Warsaw for IYPT entry received in reward free admission to certain departments at the University of Silesia and the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice.
"Participants gain knowledge in physics and related subjects," said Woźnikowska-Bezak. "They learn how to present their work and participate in debates. And they learn how to work in a team."
Tournament contestant Aleksander Kubica added, "Every young person who is interested in physics and is enthusiastic about scientific work should try out his skills in the IYPT." Kubica's project was called Klipa, which was a game with a stick placed over the edge of a table. The idea was to strike the stick in such a place as to make it fly off the table. The effect depends on the stick's weight, length and imbalance point, and the striking power.
Piotr Laszczak studied the phenomenon of rattling percussion plates when these are shot with a high-power flash. Kitchen pots and pans react in a similar manner, as does aluminum foil and photographic negatives. "During my research I tried to eliminate factors that could affect this phenomenon," Laszczak said. "I shot the flash in a vacuum and through apertures. The results I got show that the phenomenon is linked to thermal expansion, providing additional strong proof that light can interact with mass."
Szymon Migacz examined the problem of stains drying out on a tablecloth. Undoubtedly everyone at some time has spilt coffee, Migacz says, but few have thought about how the stain is formed.
Paweł Morkisz analyzed the flight of winged seeds. Said Morkisz: "I often wondered why seeds rotate in flight. After the analysis of the rotation, I understood not only the seeds' movement but above all realized the analogy between a seed's rotation and that of a propeller or rotor blade."
Maciej Dendzik created a thermal engine that works on temperature differences between day and night. The project required a combination of physics knowledge and technical skills. He said: "During the project I learned a lot about how different engines work. My engine is based on a design by Scottish engineer Robert Stirling. Today Stirling's design has reached a pinnacle of fame and NASA has decided to use it to power space shuttles in the near future."
Scientists and teachers have no doubt that taking part in competitions like the ICYS and IYPT can encourage students to build a serious research career and develop a lifelong fascination with the sciences.