Awards in the 14th EU Contest for Young Scientists, Vienna, 22-28 September 2002, details of the top three projects

September 30, 2002

Brussels, Sep 2002

On September 2002 Austrian Minister for Education, Science, and Culture Ms. Elisabeth Gehrer and Dr. Rainer Gerold, the European Commission's Director responsible for the EU Contest for Young Scientists, awarded three first prizes of €; 5 000 each to 4 students from Germany and Finland. The award ceremony was the culmination of the 14th EU Contest, which is the annual showcase of the best of European student scientific achievement. The selected projects deal with airplane transportation, biotesting and space rockets.

In addition to the first prizes, the international jury awarded further prizes to students whose works were also considered to be of remarkable quality: three second prizes of € 3 000 and three third prizes of € 1 500 (see attachment). Furthermore the Jury designated prize winners to represent the EU at several international events and to join established research teams for short periods of scientific training. Three former EU Contest Prize winners awarded three Alumni Prizes worth € 1 200 in total.

63 projects, presented by 85 young scientists (aged 15-20), were competing at the EU Contest. Students came from more than 30 European countries, the United States, China, Japan and Korea. The 63 competing projects covered a wide range of scientific fields, from magnetic liquid crystals to malaria parasites and life in the Universe.

Addressing the award ceremony, which was honoured by the presence of four Nobel Laureats (Ivar Giaever (USA), Sir Harry Kroto (UK), Erwin Neher (DE) and Carlo Rubbia (IT)) Dr Gerold said: "Young scientists have a key role to play for the future of our societies. If we don't succeed to promote young people's interest in science and engineering and to attract the best of them to scientific careers, Europe will be in danger of falling back - scientifically, economically and with regard to the development of our societies at large. In fact: young people's declining interest in scientific studies and our ageing population must to be points of concern to all of us."

Said Professor Pauline Slosse, President of the jury: "This year's projects were of particularly high quality. It was very difficult for the Jury to identify the 'best of the best'. In doing our work as Jury members we were confirmed in our view that scientific progress does not always depend on the most sophisticated techniques and devices. These young scientists show that there is a lot to be discovered simply by using intelligence, creativity and low cost equipment."

The EU Contest for Young Scientists is unanimously considered to be the annual showcase of the best scientific achievements of European students. Only projects that have won a top prize in a national young scientist competition can compete at the EU Contest. Thus, the Contest represents the ultimate goal for more than 30,000 young science students aged 15-20 who participate every year in the national contests.

The EU Contest is part of the European Union's programme "Improving Human Potential" which aims at developing Europe's knowledge potential through greater support for training and mobility of researchers. The Contest is one of the EU's activities aimed at combating the current decline in young people's interest for science studies and careers. From 2003 onwards the EU Contest will be part of a broader and more ambitious scheme addressing the issue of "Science and society".

The 15th EU Contest for Young Scientists will take place in Budapest in September 2003.

For additional information:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/young scientists/

http://www.2002youngscientists.org/

For further information:

Manuel Carmona Yebra, Science and Society Directorate, Research DG,
Tel: +32.2.295 12 56; Fax: +32.2.296 70 24
E-mail: manuel.carmona-yebra@cec.eu.int

Michel Claessens, Press Officer, Information and Communication Unit, Research DG,
Tel: +32.2.295 99 71; Fax: +32.2.295 82 20
E-mail: michel.claessens@cec.eu.int

FIRST PRIZES (€5,000 per project)

Germany (DE1)
Pawel PIOTROWSKI (19)
Field: Physics
Special Wings and Ground Effect for Efficient Transportation
Up to now only two vehicles have been used in intercontinental transport-ships and airplanes. Ships can move large amounts of freight. They are cheap but very slow. Airplanes are very fast and can reach even the remotest places on earth but they are rather expensive and can only ship small amounts of freight. However, according to Pawel, there is an alternative means of transport, which has been almost ignored up to now.

This can be considered as a method which combines low cost and maximum speed: it is the Ekranoplan, a huge airplane which can move above the water like a hovercraft thus taking advantage of the aerodynamic ground effect. This effect proves to be very economic. But there is also a considerable disadvantage connected with the ground effect: it does not work unless the plane flies in a height lower than half of its wingspan. Therefore the airplane needs wings with extremely extended spans in order to be able to cope with obstacles like waves. Furthermore it takes a very large amount of energy to get the plane into the air.

Pawel has constructed new wings that optimize flying qualities with the ground effect because these wings are capable of adapting to specific flight conditions. He hopes his work may contribute to the construction of an economical and efficient vehicle combining the advantages of ships and airplanes to form an alternative means of transport.

Germany (DE2)
Martin Etzrodt (20), Martin von der Helm (19)
Field: Biology
The Slime Mold Physarum as a Model Organism for Biotesting
Physarum polycephalum belongs to the group of the real slime molds. It is a suitable model organism for the motility of the cytoskeleton in higher eukaryote cells. The plasma's shuttle streaming in the giant cell can easily be observed under the microscope. These two contestants have developed a new determination system that allows them to study the motility of the cells under defined conditions in a special research chamber under the microscope. With the help of a CCD-camera the shuttle streaming is captured and a newly developed computer-aided digital image processing tool is used to obtain reliable quantitative data for further analysis. The cells react to the impact of environmental factors such as chemical substances, temperature and UV-radiation. Using specific inhibitors of the cytoskeleton and conducting long-term series of measurements, they have revealed part of the mechanism of how the shuttle streaming in Physarum polycephalum is organized andexamined the capacity of the cells to function as a mdel organism and a simple biotest.

Finland (FI2)
Lauri Kauppila (18)
Field: Chemistry
Comparing the O/F Ratio and Heat Released from Rocket Fuel Combustion
Lauri's study concentrated on the powerful solid rocket fuel that is widely used in space rockets, among others. The aim was to find out, by experimental and theoretical work, the effect of the fuel's oxidizer/fuel ratio on the heat released from combustion. The reagents used were ammonium perchlorate (AP) and aluminium. The theoretical study hypothesized the likely products of the reaction at each AP/aluminum ratio. The heat release was calculated as a function of the oxidizer/fuel ratio. The experimental section of the study measured the heat released from sample fuel mixtures by the use of a bomb calorimeter. AP was self-produced, and safely mixed with aluminum in various mass ratios. The theoretical and experimental results were compared and a compromise was achieved that considered the merits of each section. The results are expected to be accurate in professional rockets.

Tabular presentation of the other prize winners.

DG Research
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/research/index_en.html

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