04 April 2008 World ORT brings Diaspora teams to Weizmann safecracking tournament World ORT brought teams from ORT schools in Rome, Kishinev and Minsk to Israel this week where they pitted their physics skills and technical expertise against 40 other teams from Israeli, American, Canadian and British schools in the Shalheveth Freier Physics Tournament. The students, aged 17 and 18, were excited by the challenge to design and build a locking system for a safe that operates according to the principles of physics. The rules of the competition, which is held annually at the Weizmann Institute of Science, require that locks can be opened within five minutes but also be able to withstand opponents attempts to open them for at least 10 minutes. Carlo Santini, a physics teacher at ORT Renzo Levi School in Rome, said it had been an exhilarating experience for all involved. They have had a lot of fun, Mr Santini said. And they have told me that they feel that they have learned as much physics in this competition as they have in the whole school year. They are very proud of their performance and are looking forward to being advisors to the team that will compete next year. With typical Italian style, the Roman team scored particularly well for the aesthetics of their design, which relied on the principle of resonance to operate. All the teams had to present their designs to a panel of judges and explain the physics involved, which required considerable preparation in their Hebrew and English language skills. Until now I preferred maths to physics, said ORT Renzo Levi team member Giulia Raccah (pictured with her team mates). But this experience has made me realise that I really like to learn about the practical application of physics more than the theoretical side. In Italy, we are required to focus on theory. Dr Sergey Gorinskiy, Deputy Director of the World ORT Representative Office for the CIS and Baltic States, said that participating in the safecracking competition had been a very important experience for the teams from Belarus and Moldova. In the Soviet era, education traditionally had no contacts with the outside world. Even today taking part in such international events is important for students as well as for teachers, Dr Gorinskiy said. Its also very interesting for the students because in this region its not typical to study a subject like physics in a humorous way, such as using safecracking as a theme. The Director of ORT Moldova, Vitaly Kirrilov, said the Kishinev team was very excited about taking part in the two-day competition. This has greatly increased their motivation to study generally, not just in physics or technology, Mr Kirrilov said. When they returned they were full of superlatives about their experience. Just being in Israel made a great impression on them. In addition to taking part in the competition, the ORT teams enjoyed cultural tours of Israel, were exposed to some of the world-beating research conducted at the Weizmann Institute and spent Shabbat with peers at schools which are part of World ORTs Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme. World ORTs Research and Development Coordinator, Dr Yakov Ronkin, who coordinated World ORTs involvement in the competition, said there were strong pedagogical reasons for taking part. Project-based learning provides a strong focus for students, Dr Ronkin said. And the team work required to realise the project is a valuable life skill. Not only that, the competitive element creates a strong motivation to learn and their learning is made more interesting because they are active rather than just solving exercises in a text book.