When it comes to physics, the students and staff at Kfar Silver Youth Village go for gold.
Their uncompromising quest for excellence in science saw them win Israel’s national “safe-cracking” competition in what was only their second attempt. And they fought off tough competition from the United States, United Kingdom and other countries when the “safe” they designed took them to fourth position at the Shalheveth Freier International Physics Tournament.
It’s quite an achievement for any school let alone one where many of its students come from underprivileged backgrounds and which until 10 years ago only taught physics to senior students.
“Now we teach physics from the 7th grade up and our Bagrut physics students only learn for the 5-unit exam, the most difficult – it’s all or nothing,” said Michal Sigron, who’s been teaching at the school for 20 years. “It’s a sign that we recognise the importance of physics if Israel is going to be prepared for the 21st century.”
Michal mentored the team together with laboratory manager Alex Rubshtein.
“Alex joined the school thanks to World ORT,” Michal said. “This support allowed us to prepare better for this year’s competition.”
At the safe-cracking tournament, hosted by the Davidson Institute of Science Education at the Weizmann Institute of Science, teams design, build and operate a locking mechanism for a box using principles of physics. Teams try to crack each other’s safe within 10 minutes by deciphering the physical principles. The aim of the tournament is to encourage basic understanding of scientific principles and develop original ideas to implement these principles.
Kfar Silver made a strong debut last year, managing to break into more than half their competitors’ safes – a result which earned the team the whole practical unit of their 5-unit physics Bagrut.
This year, their original yet simple design baffled the other 69 competing teams and impressed the judges.
“If you know the principle we used to secure the safe then you can open it quickly. But if you don’t the principle then you’ll never open it,” Michal said.
“We knew our safe was good; we’ve been working on it since the beginning of the year. But I didn’t enter the competition thinking that we’d win. When they announced the results of the top 40 teams in reverse order and our school wasn’t mentioned I kept telling the team, ‘Never mind. You did your best.’ When, finally, we were announced as the winners we were silent – we were in shock!”
There was more to celebrate two weeks later when the team of 12th graders – Lishay Even-Tsur, Abir Sigron, Avi’am Tsarfati and Leeon Yehudah – finished fourth out of 26 teams from around the world.
Their achievement was a sign of how educational standards at the school were being raised, said Kfar Silver CEO Shimon Solomon.
“For the last two years we have been in a process, together with World ORT Kadima Mada and the Weizmann Institute of Science, of turning Kfar Silver into a centre of educational excellence in science. Our success in these competitions is the result of the students’ and staff’s hard work. I’m happy and proud. It is a great achievement,” he said.
World ORT Kadima Mada National Director Avi Ganon added: “The Kfar Silver team has demonstrated the school’s excellence in the field of physics. It shows how investment in students and their educational facilities brings results.”