History - Success stories - Newcastle 1995

Chris Mead (UK)

First Prize and ISEF travel award for his project "Radio Waves from Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9", alongside with Matthew Thomas.
Chris believes that the EU Contest somewhat "opened my eyes. Living in a very quiet area of Southwest England, it was rare to meet others with the drive and curiosity to complete a science fair project. In the space of that week I learned how so many people, from such different backgrounds, can have so much in common. The intense concentration of agile minds at the Newcastle Contest was breathtaking. The topic of conversation would drift from our projects, through science fiction and philosophy back to our projects again. I am very glad we were able to come together for that magical week in 1995".

He particularly recalls his affinity with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, the representative from the European School of Munich: "we had a shared love of Isaac Asimov's writings, and at the time we agreed to collaborate on our own science fiction book. I guess it is something that is yet to happen, though it has not been ruled out for the future!".

The Newcastle Contest in 1995 coincided with the British Association for the Advancement of Science's Science Week, which was being held in the same city. On one day, Chris found himself explaining his project to Professor Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal: "I found it amazing that someone performing such high-powered research could be interested in my project; it was certainly a great honour to speak to him, and he was very approachable and friendly".

About his and Matthew's project, he describes it as "a radio telescope that measured the radio flux from the impact of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with the planet Jupiter. It was a once-in-a-life-time opportunity, and I would welcome the chance to do something similar again". He attributes the First Prize to "some twist of fate". He considers that "the accolade could so easily have gone to someone else… Everyone at the Contest must have been struck by the sheer quality of science projects present. Looking down the list of projects at the start of the week was very daunting; I did not know what to expect when I met the other scientists. I had pictures in my mind of very serious, focused individuals with whom it would be very difficult to communicate. It was a pleasant surprise to discover how wrong I was".

Concerning the ISEF travel award to Arizona, there was an amazing coincidence. While attending it, he got to have dinner with Reneé and Stefane Filion of North Bay, Canada: "we became instant soul mates and are still in very regular contact -I think it currently averages about two e-mails each per day-. A year later, Reneé and her brother were selected by the ISEF to take part in the same reciprocal exchange programme. They represented the ISEF at the 9th EU Contest in Milan".

He is currently studying Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory (Sidney Sussex College) of the University of Cambridge. Five years later, he is still firmly embedded in the study of physics and astronomy. He reckons that "Cambridge is a wonderful university, although it is a lot of work and the standard is astronomically high. I love it though; you might think the place would be incredibly competitive, but it is not. The fact is that everyone is in the same boat". He hopes to emerge with a MSci and a BA in the Natural Sciences in 2001.

The EU Contest made Chris aware of the many possibilities the scientific world has on offer: "more than anything it made me realise how much I enjoy public speaking, and explaining science to the layman. One distinct memory is that of a visit by local Newcastle schoolchildren; somehow my partner nominated me to speak to them, so I took up the challenge. With suitable audio-visual aids, including a laptop computer and a slide projector, I had them enthralled and listening intently. Many children are fascinated by astronomy and space science".
In the future he would like to be in a career where he can explain his ideas to others: "this does not necessarily mean teaching, since research and any other sort of team-based job require this skill. I have got many options open, and I imagine that many other ex-Contest scientists are facing a similar decision, and are most likely looking in the same areas as I am".

Gergely Eberhardt (H)

Gergely won a Thrid Prize at Newcastle 1995 for a project based on "A Virus Recognition Program to Prevent Computer Infection".
He perfected this program for a year, and there was a Hungarian entrepreneur who got to distribute it:
"unfortunately, it has not been widely used in industry. My distributor was able to sell only a few hundred copies of it". However, he is quite happy about other outcomes: "I won the Genius Award at the Genius 96 exhibition, as well as the Croatian Inventors Association Award". The problem is his program only works under DOS, and a complex operating system such as Windows would not allow its functioning.

Gergely is now a software developer at VirusBuster Ltd., which is the biggest Hungarian anti-virus company: "I have been working here since 1995. The first days I only debugged various viruses. Now debugging means having to say what and how the virus does as well. And then I have to find it and finally kill it".

He then joined the department of program developing, which meant he had to develop a cleaning application for a Word/Excel resident virus.
He has written his dissertation on this matter, too: "Protection against the new types of viruses". He explains that: "I described there the behaviour of some macro viruses, as well as some new dangerous attacks through the Internet and the available protection against hem". This dissertation won him a Third Prize at HET 1998 (Scientific Society for Telecommunications), a renowned Hungarian scientific competition.
At the same time, he has been studying at the Jozsef Attila University of Szeged (Hungary), from which he will graduate in Software Designing.

Erik Sos (H)

Alongside with Frank Ekpar, Erik won a Third Prize at Newcastle 1995 for his project titled "Mobile Robots: Motorless Motion Using Shape Memory Alloy Actuators". He reckons that what he mainly learnt during the EU Contest was how to manage, develop, organise and present a scientific project.

Erik started his PhD last September at the Technical University of Budapest, in the field of Virtual Companies Organisation.

Tycho van Meeuwen (NL)

Tycho participated in the Newcastle 1995 Contest, and won a Second Prize for a project titled "The Witty Wise Writing Writer".
He reckons that his memories about the EU Contest are "well stored and they look like a dream in which I was allowed to take part. It was a very pleasant time. Representing the Netherlands in front of people from all over Europe was a great experience, and winning my prize afterwards made this feeling even more complete. I wish many young people could have so much luck when they are only 18 years old!"
Concerning the accommodation, he was just shocked: "it did not feel right to enter the hotel wearing jeans. And having lunch at Durham Castle, all specially organised for us, was not bad either!"

He well remembers a long conversation with a member of the Jury: "he seemed to understand very well what I intended to show by means of my project, which was my desire to understand every little detail of a component before actually using it. That gave me a very positive impulse. I have to say my machine was no high tech product, but you could realise that I constructed it by assembling basic elements. Well, he was impressed by this fact. He encouraged me to continue this path".

Tycho's project was a computer controlled pen that was able to write and imitate his handwriting, and the prize it was awarded gave him the opportunity to buy complementary tools for further projects and developments.

The prize confirmed that he was on the right way: "it meant that not only I did like technology, but also that my ideas were valuable and worth it. The prize came up at the time I had to choose what to study, and it therefore helped me to make the right choice, that is electrical engineering".
He considers the EU Contest to be "a very good way of stimulating young people to work in the scientific field. The organisation of the Newcastle edition was just fantastic; and I was delighted to see how seriously our projects were treated, and how much attention they received".

He is now studying electrical engineering at the Technical University of Eindhoven. He started in 1996 and he has simultaneously been working on different projects at the Laboratory of Young Scientists in Eindhoven. He often meets younger researchers that remind him of the EU Contest, and he usually helps them out in whatever they need. Over the last two years, he has developed a computer program that, alongside with an interface, electronic components, and mechanical elements, work together and in a human-like fashion. He has baptised it as "A Hand Full of Movement", since it aims to imitate the motion of a hand that is made out of Plexiglas. It made him aware of the complexity of a human hand, plus winning another prize at the Dutch Contest for Young Scientists.

Charilaos Lygidakis (GR)

Charilaos obtained a Special Mention from the Jury for his project on "The Consumer Choice and its Relationship with Advertising and Healthy Diet". His work dealt with many connected issues such as the categories of food whose large consumption is likely to cause serious health problems (cancer, diabetes, etc.) and the psychological approach to why and how young people consume under the pressure of advertising and the mass media.

Some doctors at the Health Centre of Chrisoupoulis later used the survey, and it was partially used in a paper titled "Corpulence: Origin, Experience, and Tolerance", which was presented during the 7th Pan Hellenic Congress of General Practitioners in April 1995. Some of its elements were again included within "Height and Weight Indications Amongst the Students of Secondary Schools in the Region of Kavala", another paper presented at the same Congress of General Practitioners two years later.

Back to Newcastle 1995, he recalls that "even though I needed a computer in order to exhibit my project, I was not able to get one. Fortunately, the co-ordinator of the Contest was so helpful and gentle as to lend me her own laptop for presentation purposes. I will not forget that".

He has participated in different medical projects since the EU Contest in Newcastle: from ageing to the allergic diseases of the respiratory system, psychiatric disorders, and walking impairments of the old.

At present, he is studying his second year of Medicine at the University of Bologna (Italy).

When he goes back to 1994, he is still surprised about how the choice of his project has actually influenced his life: "the experience of the EU Contest was truly determinant, since it influenced perhaps the most relevant decision of my life, that is the selection of my future profession". His participation in the Contest made him aware of the responsibility that entails working in a scientific way and exploring new horizons in research: "from that moment I knew I would become a doctor. I realised it from the moment I started to know more about the dietary habits of young people, the harmful chemical additives, the essential ingredients for the chemical equilibrium of our organism, etc .