Students cotton on to the value of space science


05 February 2010 Students cotton on to the value of space science For the second time in a row, students from the Western Galilee High School have won an annual World ORT competition on science and space.The three team members were each presented with a lap top computer for the research they conducted into the use of satellite data to improve cotton yields. Year 11 students Rotem Ben Zeev, Eden Amar and Ilya Lasavoy came together in their free time to do the research, which involved comparing the data provided by NASA weather satellites with readings made at ground level. We found that the satellite data is more precise and more reliable, Rotem said on Monday in the presentation he and his team mates made at the third annual Ilan Ramon Science and Space Memorial Seminar organised as part of World ORTs Kadima Mada programme. Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang at the Ilan Ramon Science and Space Memorial Seminar. By using the information about humidity, hours of sunshine, temperature and other relevant data we can tell cotton farmers how best to grow their crops, for example when to irrigate and how much water to use. Kadima Mada Pedagogical Manager Dr Osnat Dagan said the team gave an impressive lecture. They showed the whole process by which they arrived at their conclusions. It was very interesting, she said. Last year, the Western Galilee team investigated how powerful a satellites camera would have to be in order to differentiate weeds from crops in a field. The research was presented at a national conference on weed management and at an international scientific conference in Athens. Each of the more than 30 high schools participating in Kadima Mada sent a delegation of four students and one teacher to the Seminar in Kiryat Yam, which is the site for World ORTs multi-million-dollar Science City megaproject currently under development. The Seminar is held at the beginning of February to commemorate Israels first astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ramon, who died in the Columbia shuttle disaster on February 1, 2003. His widow, Rona, did not attend this years Seminar because she is still in mourning for her son, Asaf, who died last year in a flying accident shortly after graduating with distinction from the Israeli Air Forces pilot training course. However, the Seminars format again succeeded in stimulating the childrens interest in science. Dr Thomas Goodman, a lecturer in a programme for younger people at the Weizmann Institute of Science, cultivated a sense of wonder amongst the teenagers with his presentation on physical aspects of living in zero gravity. And Erez Shapiro, Deputy Director General for Research and Development at Orbit Technology Group, gave a presentation on the use and importance of communication satellites. Special guest at this years Seminar was Christer Fuglesang, a Swedish physicist with the European Space Agency who has been on two shuttle mission becoming the first non-American and non-Russian astronaut to have executed more than three spacewalks. This is inspirational for the children, Dr Fuglesang said. And to hold it on the day of the Columbia disaster probably impresses the children even more. I knew Ilan [Ramon] well this is a nice way to remember him. Dr Fuglesang presented a film of his mission to the International Space Station, including the scientific experiments he conducted while in orbit. Among the other activities on the day were workshops organised by the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology and Space (Madatech) including an inflatable planetarium, the construction of telescope-like devices which allowed the students to observe the sun and calculate its distance from the Earth, and the use of dry ice and water as propellant to make plastic bottles rocket many metres into the air. Dr Dagan said that the feedback from participants had been outstanding. Our evaluation forms had four categories of assessment: very good, good, not-so-good and bad, she said. No-one gave a negative evaluation, most describing the Seminar as very good and the rest as good. Colonel Ramon, who grew up in Beer Sheva and worked his way to the top, set an example to the children, whose schools lie in modest periphery towns, Mr Kalinsky said. By remembering Asaf in the Seminar, Kadima Mada was introducing another role model who would be even more relevant to the children because he was close in age to them. The memorial service which opened the Seminar this year also referred to Colonel Ramons 21-year-old son, Asaf. Asaf is an example of someone who did not have to serve in a combat role for his national service because of what happened to his father but not only wanted to anyway but was determined to do the very best he could, a determination which saw him excel in the air forces fighter pilot training programme, said Kadima Mada Executive Director Rony Kalinsky.