On 18-19 February 2022, the final of the first year of the Science Challenge took place at the laser centres of the Institute of Physics of the CAS – ELI Beamlines and HiLASE Centre. Science Challenge is an educational competition for teams of talented high school students who are not afraid of ultimate scientific challenges.
The finals of the competition were preceded by an online round in which three-person student teams created the most efficient program to automate laser systems. Consequently, three best teams were chosen for the final round: the green team of “Quantum Limes” from the Olomouc – Hejcin Grammar School, the codes_of_anarchy team in blue colours from the Technical Lyceum in Brno, Sokolska Street and the red team Nafta – Anime, made up of enthusiastic young physicists from different parts of the Czech Republic.
The programme of the two-day finals was really busy. Its participants first got a theoretical introduction to lasers and their applications, later they went on tours to soak up the real atmosphere of the two science centres in Dolni Brezany. Then came the final challenge itself.
During the twenty-four-hour science marathon, the students were tasked with programming and assembling a device to measure the quality of a laser beam and presenting their product to potential customers in a final poster session. In addition to programming, designing and optimizing the measurement system, students also learned how to debug potential problems and find innovative solutions. All of this was done with dedication, effective brainstorming and teamwork.
Beside mentoring, the teachers took part in an excursion to the clean laser and experimental halls as well as an intensive laser workshop designed especially for high school teachers.
All teams showed tremendous dedication and passion for science, despite the time pressure and lack of sleep. The first place in the challenging competition was eventually won by the Nafta – Anime team, who were clear from the start on how to proceed. The members of the red team organized and divided the work properly and presented a very elaborate and, most importantly, functional set-up. They also gave a great performance in the final presentation, when they presented their result clearly to the panel of evaluators. The award ceremony was also attended by Tomas Mocek, Head of the HiLASE Centre, Roman Hvezda, Head of the ELI Beamlines Research Centre, and Ondrej Vrtiska, Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Vesmir, who awarded all finalists with a year’s subscription.
And what are the immediate impressions of the members of the winning team? “We have gained a big sleep deficit, but also a great experience with science and lasers,” says Martin Svanda from the Nafta – Anime team. “It’s a very big and unusual experience that can push you extremely far,” add his teammates Patrik Stencel and Barbora Ruzickova.
“All three teams participated in the challenge with vigour and it was clear that they learned a lot in one day. I’m not worried about the new generation of scientists thanks to the Science Challenge,” sums up the atmosphere of the competition Martin Duda, one of the organisers and a researcher from the HiLASE Centre.
The first year of the Science Challenge is over, but in the spring a new challenge will open for students in the form of the Talent Academy, another popular competition of the laser centres of the Institute of Physics of CAS for talented high school students. More information will be published on talentovka.cz.
About Science Challenge:
Organizers: Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences – ELI Beamlines and HiLASE Centre
More information: sciencechallenge.cz, facebook.com/ScienceChallengeFZU
Illustrative pictures: bit.ly/MediaSCH2021
ELI Beamlines: Hana Strnadová | Hana.Strnadova@eli-beams.eu | 601 560 333
Centrum HiLASE: Radka Kozáková | Radka.Kozakova@hilase.cz | 601 560 164 // Kateřina Brejchová | Katerina.Brejchova@hilase.cz | 721 836 394