At high school, we were to attend student research and professional activities program (SOC) organised by the ministry of education. Physics projects led by our physics teacher had already had their rich tradition. Younger students took over projects after the school’s graduates and one of those was called “magnets”.
It was about the use of small magnets on pads that hover on air cushion (like air-hockey) and simulation of a thermodynamic system. Motion of the magnets was recorded and the video processed by a special software to finally get characteristics from the data (temperature, pressure, etc.) Michal Géci had already worked on the project and since I enjoyed Physics, I joined in. I discovered almost immediately that we were going to a competition in Bratislava in a month. Within that month I had an intensive Matlab course and we somehow combined my programming skills with Michal’s knowledge of videos and graphics.
By the time of competition we had already produced original results, yet due to lack of complex theoretical knowledge we couldn’t dig deeper into the topic. We were given the additional prize by the American association for high school mathematics Mu Alpha Theta. Most probably because the project was closer to the field of Mathematics in which there were no projects.
After the half term of the school year we made a huge progress in video processing by replacing software we used by our own – much faster and reliable. The pace of work increased every time there was a competition coming up 🙂
This time it was Google Science Fair and as we had already been preparing materials for the SOC, we decided to enroll our project in form of online materials and a video. We found ourselves in the company of regional finalists (among 90 project from around the world).
In the 4th grade, there was a more serious competition Scientia, being a stage before the world-wide rounds. We won the nomination for Intel ISEF in Los Angeles, which took place a mere week before upper secondary school examinations. The closer the date was coming, the more intensively we were preparing. We would come to the school before 8 a.m. and leave around 9 p.m. Everything else was of a lower priority. During the competition in LA, we were visited by several judges, but most of them, despite being physicists, did not work in our area. Thus we barely got to the topic itself when the presentation time was up. At the very end, though, 2 judges approached and one of them knew exactly what we were doing and even worked in the area himself. This brought us the second prize (each prize was given to several projects).
Just before the announcement of second prizes, a representative from the Lincoln laboratory at MIT informed us all that they had decided to name newly discovered asteroids after the winners of second and higher prizes.
If you are passionate about something and give it all you can, even when coming from Slovakia, you can achieve global results you have never thought of before 🙂
Martin Liščinský & Michal Géci