06/06/2010 05:37

Winners design program to control lights via iPhone.

The contestants might have been louder and more excited than your average engineering competition competitors – but these were high school seniors so a little noise was understandable. However, when it came time to explain their projects, these pupils were suddenly all business during the day of competition last week.

The Young Engineers competition of ORT Israel’s science-technology track of brought together around 100 seniors from all over the country to the ORT Hermelin College of Engineering in Netanya, to pit their final projects one against the other. The final projects had to include scientific, technological and social justice elements.

The projects were judged based on five criteria: teamwork, exhibiting the project, the survey of current solutions and defining the problem, originality, and implementation. The judges did not take off points for those who did not manage to build a prototype.

Reading through the competition posters, it was clear the teams had spent many months first on research, then on developing their idea.

The winning group designed a program to control one’s home appliances and lights remotely via an iPhone. Ohad Ronen, who accepted the prize for his group, told The Jerusalem Post right afterwards that it “feels good [to win]. It’s nice. It’s fun to be recognized for things that you’ve done.”

Two environmental projects received special notice as well.

Dimitri Laktiyonov and Nicole Kritzin tied for third place for their Solar Disinfection Project. The two pupils from Moshe Sharett Comprehensive in Netanya built a system to purify drinking water based on a simple scientific phenomenon – the UV rays from the sun purify water over time.

However, since “you can’t leave a plastic bottle out in the sun for hours, we developed a drip system to separate the water into individual drops. Then we built a set of reflectors to concentrate the sunlight,” Kritzin told the Post.

“By breaking the water into drops, the sun purifies it in a matter of seconds,” Laktiyonov added. The prototype was constructed of everyday materials such as half a plastic water bottle and tinfoil-covered reflectors.

The prize for crowd favorite went to Maya Krivada of Maxim Levy High School in Lod for her smart watering system for private gardens. The diminutive Krivada decided to focus on private gardens because larger areas already have efficient conservation oriented watering systems, she said.

Krivada developed a system of sensors and underground watering pipes going directly to the roots to minimize waste. The system would enable the owner to decide which plants to plant where in the garden based on soil conditions and then keep them constantly watered for maximum effect. The system would also chart results over any length of time.

“I wanted to bring a planter to demonstrate but my school didn’t have the budget for it,” she said.

While none of the projects were intended to become industrial products, the idea was to give the pupils a taste of teamwork, problem identification and problem solving, program founder and head of the ORT Goralnik Institute for enhancement of teaching and learning Dr. Meir Frishtman explained.

“Now, they’ll feel like they can do these kinds of things in the future,” he said.

Founded 10 years ago, the track takes elite pupils and teaches them the basic proportional relationships that underlie science, Frishtman said.

Rather than forcing pupils to choose a specific scientific field early on in high school, these “analogies,” which hold true across many scientific fields, were taught to give the pupils a taste of the entire scientific and technological spectrum, he explained.

Pupils can then get a jump-start on a technology job in the IDF and then study at prestigious universities like the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. It would only be at the university level that they’d have to specialize, he added.

This year the track was available in 20 schools and next year it will be available in 30, Frishtman said.