Science Challenge has its winners: they coded, innovated and tamed the laser beam

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The first year of the Science Challenge educational competition for teams of gifted high school students took place in the ELI Beamlines and HiLASE laser centres on February 18-19. During the 24-hour scientific marathon, the first place in the challenging competition was awarded to the Nafta - Anime team.

Three teams advanced to the two-day finals in Dolní Břežany from the online round, in which groups of three students created the most effective program for the automation of laser systems. The green team Quantum Limes consisted of students of Gymnázium Olomouc – Hejčín,  the team codes_of_anarchy in blue included enthusiastic programmers from Technical Lyceum in Brno, Sokolská  and the red team Nafta – Anime brought together young physicists from various schools.

In the laboratories of the laser centres, the finalists faced demanding challenges not only in the field of programming, but also in optics, physics and construction. During the twenty-four-hour marathon, the students had the task of programming and assembling a device for measuring the quality of a laser beam and presenting their product to potential customers at a final poster session. All this was not possible without commitment, effective brainstorming and teamwork.

The role of the accompanying teachers was not only to mentor their teams. High school teachers took part in an intensive laser workshop focused on demonstrating activities that can be used in teaching and an extraordinary excursion to the premises of clean laser and experimental halls.

The award ceremony was attended by man Hvězda, head of the ELI Beamlines research centre, together with Tomáš Mocek, head of the HiLASE centre, and Ondřej Vrtiška, editor-in-chief of the magazine Vesmír. He awarded all the finalists with an annual subscription. One of the other prizes was an invitation to a special day at the ELI Beamlines and HiLASE laser centres.

"Thanks to Science Challenge, I am not worried about a new generation of scientists," summed up the atmosphere of the competition Martin Duda, one of the organizers and a scientist from the HiLASE Centre. Martin Švanda from the winning team Nafta - Anime added: "We have gained a big sleep deficit, but also a great experience with science and lasers."  His team mates Patrik Štencel and Barbora Růžičková commented: "It's an extraordinary experience that can take you extremely far."

Historically the first year of Science Challenge ended, but a new challenge in the form of the Talent Academy, another popular competition of the laser centres of the FZU of the Czech Academy of Sciences for gifted high school students, will open to students in the spring. More information is available at