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Inspiring Young Scientists at the SYNT Competition
By Viviana Nielsen, Middle School Science Teacher

After months of preparation, ten Middle School students headed to ETH Zurich on March 2nd to participate in the 3rd Swiss Young Naturalists Tournament (SYNT) for science enthusiasts aged 12 to 16. Spending time within the walls where 21 Nobel laureates scientists have made scientific breakthroughs gave our bright students the courage to stand in front of a jury of five ETH professors to present their scientific solutions to a specific problem.

Back in August, students were able to choose one of seventeen problems (created by SYNT) to analyse, depending on their interest. The problems were varied, ranging from using eye movement data to select and study an interesting psychological effect concerning perception of images and motion to suggesting an interesting problem concerning atmospheric electricity. After making their choice, students researched their problems, proposed experiments, assembled devices and carried out their thorough investigations to solve their problem.

On the final day, our students braved through the “science fight”, where two teams (each consisting of two students who worked on individual problems) compete against each other. Each young scientist takes turns presenting their problem and outlining their detailed solution. The aim is to defend their solution whilst giving constructive criticism towards the opposing team. In order to win, the team has to convince not only their opponents, but also the jury, that the quality of their scientific work paired with their solution demonstrates a more thorough understanding of science.

Of the 28 participating groups, (56 students from 18 different schools in Switzerland) our students made us proud by ranking: 

  • 5th place: Aayush G and Connor C
  • 6th place: Isaiah S and Aleksandra K
  • 7th place: Margot L and David F
  • 10th place: Filippo M and a ZIS student
  • 16th place: Koen O and Caroline V
  • 17th place: Ben M and an ISB student

A special mention goes to Margot L (Grade 8) who was selected for her outstanding scientific analysis of her problem (Baking bread) and clarity of her presentation to be part of the Swiss team to participate in the International Young Naturalists Tournament in Belarus next August.

Some students shared their reflections after the tournament:

 “This was an amazing opportunity to discover how much I love science.”  (Filippo M, Grade 7)

"Going through the process of researching and experimenting for months, and then being able to share my findings was very rewarding.” (David F, Grade 8) 

“It was a great opportunity to improve our creative and logical thinking, by creating our own experiments to find a solution.” (Caroline V, Grade 8) 

Our Middle School students proved to be amazing ambassadors of our school mission: they showed respect for other students while doing the opposition, motivation through the hard process of experimenting and researching solutions to their scientific problems and achieved an excellent performance.

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