© Benjamin Sterbenz


High School Graduates Win Explorers’ Award

‘We didn’t expect to win an award because there were so many competitors. Although we had a good feeling after our talk with the members of the jury, it still was a big surprise’, said Patrick Neulinger. He and his school mate, both HTBLA students from Perg in Upper Austria,  participated in the world’s biggest competition for aspiring scientists. As the sole Austrian delegation the two friends, who have worked together enthusiastically on projects since their second class, lined up to convince the jurors of the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) of their merits.

Among the Best
The competition took place in a huge hall, in the middle of the industrial city Pittsburgh. Each group had only four square metres in which to make people aware of their project, and to stand out from the crowd. ‘Here you find the best of the best, the most clever pupils of the world. Much of the work has the level of a PhD thesis. Patent applications have already been made for a quarter of them’, said Wendy Hawkins, Manager of the competition.

 On the Austrian’s stand there was a display board full of formulas, diagrams and an explanation of the project. Their actual invention was placed on a desk at the front: This is an aerial drone, which for which they had developed the hard- and software. ‘Our Quadcopter searches for avalanche victims with the help of sensors. It scans signals  from transmitters and sends the GPS-position to the rescue teams’, said Marksteiner. They put together the prototype together with their teacher, Dietmar Wokatsch . Its functions are being continuously expanded by new sensors and a new thermal imaging function.

The Avio-Drohne ,the name of the device, was the students’ graduation project. After having worked each weekend on the flying robot, they got their reward in the form of a 3rd place in the ISEF Computer Science category, as well as prize money of one thousand US dollars. ‘It was an honour to be allowed to participate’, Neulinger said modestly. ‘It was an important experience for us. You learn to prepare for a competition and how to present yourself. Being judged by experts is an experience that many students of our age don’t have’, said Marksteiner.

They haven’t celebrated the success yet. Both 20-year-olds, who are going to Mannheim University to begin to study commercial information technology, are too young for champagne in the USA. They’ll celebrate after they arrive back home.

They intend to pass on their experience to the Austrian team who will take part next year. Especially because what counts besides having done good scientific work is putting on a show. Two US Americans made a splash by packing their scientific results into a rap song.

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Benjamin Sterbenz

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Benjamin Sterbenz