The preparation for this year’s IYNT started right after the SYNT, when the team was announced and gathered for a first meeting with parents, to discuss the logistics. Another five meetings with the whole team later, and many more individual meetings of coaches and participants, we gathered for the final preparation, before leaving for the Belarusian capital Minsk, where the IYNT 2019 was taking place. 

On the final day of preparation, everyone gathered bringing along their suitcases. Final experiments were done, and the presentations were improved further. After some final training on how to prepare an opposition, we headed for the airport to check-in the luggage. This allowed everyone to sleep a little longer on Sunday morning, before meeting again at Zurich airport. 

Journey to Minsk 

The mood on Sunday morning was – as one would expect at six o’clock in the morning – not too high, but certainly everyone was excited when we boarded the plane towards Paris. In Paris we had to change in order to reach our final destination. The passport-control turned out to be a challenge, as the travel consent was not available in French. In the end we were allowed to pass and get aboard the plane to Minsk. 

After a slightly unsteady flight we reached Minsk and the entry formalities and baggage claim were surprisingly fast, so that we were heading towards the exit roughly thirty minutes after landing. The customs officer did stop us to check one of our suitcases. The multiple parallel items visible on the x-ray image attracted his attention, asking if there were tools inside. Upon explaining that this was only our chocolate for the competition he apologised, and we proceeded to the arrival hall, where we met our driver and the Romanian team, who were already waiting for us. 

In the bus we were discussing the progression of the tournament, when one of the Romanian team members turned to us, explaining that he could understand us talking in German. We took that as a warning to be even more careful in the following days.  

Upon arrival at the hotel we moved into our rooms and began to work on our presentations again, preparing for those scheduled for the first day of competition. After the most necessary preparations had been done, we went to the city centre to have dinner at a traditional Belarusian café and exchange some money. 

Back in the hotel we went through the presentations once more before going to bed. 

Opening Ceremony and Science Fight 1 

We started the next day with breakfast at the school’s canteen. Everyone seemed a bit nervous and most of us were not familiar with the Belarusian breakfast, such that most plates were left with only half of the food eaten. 

When arriving at the assembly hall of Belarusian State University Lyceum, most of the seats were already occupied with teams waiting for the opening ceremony. The ceremony started with some general words of welcome from both the local organisers and the general council, before the founder of the IYNT, Evgeny Yunosov, declared the seventh IYNT for officially opened. 

The lots were drawn by the captains of each team, fixing the order for the team introductions to follow but also for the first three rounds of Science Fights. As we drew number two, we were the second team and could enjoy the subsequent performances, knowing we had done our part. And the Swiss Quiz, which allowed the audience to take part, was well received by the jurors, allowing us to start the first round from the second place. 

After lunch we met for the first Science Fight with the teams of “Greece-Pinewood” and “Russia-13 Element”. We had the honour to start with the first report and got challenge on problem five “After the tempest”. Cajetan explained how we managed to determine the direction of stirring in a beaker for more than one week, using sand of different sizes. The solution was well received and earned a solid 21.4 average.  

In the next stage we did a review on the Greek solution to problem four “Sunflower spirals”. The solution was solid, and Margot proofed that our new template and all the training was, what the jurors wanted to see. With three maximum grades of 10 and an average of 9.1 the best the first round. In the last stage Adam rounded up an overall good team performance with a strong opposition on problem 6 “Soundproofing”, earning a 16.4 average. The total of 46.9 was the highest in that round an allowed us to surpass Croatia and secure first place in the ranking. 

With a very good start into the tournament we returned to the hotel to prepare for defending that position on the next day. 

Science Fights 2 and 3 

Science Fights 2 and 3 were scheduled for the following day, making it a decisive one for securing a spot in the semi-finals. We started with a strong review on problem 9 “Fading in Sunlight”, where Cajetan scored an average of 9.0. Margot followed up with a strong discussion about problem 11 “Yeast”, that earned her a 16.8 average, again one of the highest rated performances. 

In the final stage of that morning, Adam presented our solution to problem 12 “Moon”. Even though some juror did not like the report for a lack of varied parameters in the experiment, another juror gave the maximum grade. With an average of 25.4 we obtained the highest score in the whole tournament with a total of 51.2, keeping the other contenders for first place at distance. 

After lunch another round of Science Fights took place, featuring the solutions to the more openly phrased “invent yourself” problems. For these each team had to refine the given problem statement and come up with their own more detailed task. After analysing the statements of team “Bulgaria-Penultimate”, we decided which problem we wanted to oppose in the first stage. 

Unfortunately, they did decline our first two challenges so that we had to oppose problem 16 “Invent Yourself: Short-term memory” in the end. The solution was good, and Jade led an interesting discussion, earning an average of 15.1 for the opposition. 

In the following stage Margot appeared for the third time on stage, presenting her findings on problem 14 “Invent Yourself: Eye movement”. Again, the jurors did not seem to agree on the quality of the solution, but with an average of 23.9 we again received a very high evaluation. 

In the last stage Henry had to review the report and discussion on problem 13 “Invent Yourself: Baking Bread”. Unfortunately, both the solution and the discussion could not keep up with the previous performances. With yet another very strong review, earning an average score of 8.7 we concluded that day, still defending the lead in the overall ranking. 

Science Fight 4 and Semi-Finals 

In Science Fight four the teams were presented with six completely new problems. The Swiss Team was challenged second and accepted to present problem 22 “Hot and Cold”. In the following 45 minutes our team – as all the others – had time to conduct their experiments, collect the theory and prepare their presentation. 

In the end our interpretation of the task did not agree with the one intended by the committee, which some of the jurors pointed out and accordingly deducted. Due to the overall weak performance in that round, the scores of 16.4 for the report of Henry, the 13.9 Cajetan got for his opposition and yet another strong review this time from Lilli, earning a 9.1 were enough to win the round and qualify for the semi-finals, taking place the same afternoon. 

The semi-finals were the first option where we could choose, what to present. But it was also necessary to win that round, as only one team of each of the semi-finals qualifies for the final. The stakes were high, and we decided on Lilli’s presentation on “2D foam”. 

However, the fight started with our team doing the opposition on the Georgia solution to problem 7 “Burning glass”. Henry did a great job and got an average of 16.8, putting us in the lead. Our solution was once again perceived controversially, obtaining an average score of 21.9. In the end we were lucky that the Bulgarian solution to problem 2 “Mountains” was not too good, so that the 6.8 Jade received for the final review was enough to draw the semi-final with the Bulgarian team. Thanks to our previous ranking this was enough to qualify for the final, that was scheduled for the day after tomorrow. 

Excursion or preparation 

The next day, excursions were scheduled to get to know Belarus and its capital. Our team however decided to use the day off to prepare for the final, eager to perform their best. After hours of research for the other problems and brushing up of our presentation, we gathered for a final discussion of the problems. Well prepared but still a bit nervous, everyone went to bed, trying to find some sleep before the final. 

Final and closing ceremony 

The next day we headed for breakfast at the usual time, unaware of the last-minute changes to the schedule. When arriving at the restaurant, it was still locked, but fortunately we were not the only ones, who had missed out the latest update. 

After the breakfast we headed for the assembly hall, where the final was supposed to take place. After the captain’s contest, that was won by the Croatian captain with an impressive result of five out of five, we knew that we had to oppose the Croatian solution to yeast first. Margot did take on the challenge and touched upon different aspects of the problem. Unfortunately, not every juror seemed to understand what she was hinting at, what led them to deduct on their grades. An overall score of 15.2 is still impressive and was comparable to the grades obtained by the other teams. 

In the second stage Lilli presented how chicken bones can get elastic. The opponent from New Zealand was very aggressive and pointed out some flaws in our experiments. In the end most jurors agreed, that it was a good solution, but it still lacked some aspects. On the other hand, the problem is very complex, as it involves aspects of biology, chemistry and physics alike. With an average score of 22.6 we fell short of our expectations, making it hard to reach the gold medal as in the previous two years. 

In the last stage New Zealand presented their solution to problem 7 “Burning glass”. They had a good theoretical model and conducted a good deal of experiments. Even the aggressive opponent from the Croatian team could not unveil any major flaws. In the end New Zealand won the final convincingly, with the clearly best presentation in the final. Unfortunately, we ended just 0.3 points away from Croatia, who were still in range to receive their gold medal. 

Overall one can say that the final was very close, and all three teams did very well. The tiny difference might be disappointing, but in the end the whole team should be proud of their achievement. We congratulate all teams taking part in this year’s IYNT, especially the fellow finalists from Croatia and New Zealand for winning their gold medals. 

At the closing ceremony everyone received their certificates and both the host city and the problems for next year’s IYNT were revealed. Afterwards there were lots of pictures with different teams before the teams of New Zealand and Switzerland went for dinner together, to celebrate their achievements. Especially after the tough contest in the final and the missed-out excursions on the day before, this was a worthy last evening. 

And for some the evening continued, playing card games or watching horror movies in the hotel. Unfortunately, our taxi for the airport left at 5am, meaning we had a very short night and arrived back in Zurich being tired. But soon we will take on the challenge of next year’s problems.