U.S. Water News Online
HAIFA, Israel -- Student engineers sent their gadgets
whirring, spinning and buzzing across a pool of water in a
competition to re-enact the biblical Jewish crossing of the Red Sea
and pour a ceremonial glass of wine -- all without anyone touching
The Technion, Israel's leading technical university, hosted the
tongue-in-cheek competition with real prizes, a way of tickling the
imaginations of budding engineers while providing a laugh or two
along the way.
The school timed the contest to coincide with the run-up to the
Jewish holiday of Passover, marking the exodus of the biblical
Israelites from Egypt through the parted waters of the Red Sea.
The special contraptions had to cross a 10-foot distance with pool
of water representing the Red Sea in the middle, pour wine into a
glass and place it on the far side.
No one thought it looked easy, but some were confident of winning
first prize -- a check for $4,400.
Sitting beside his little engine that couldn't, head in hands,
Yuval Shelef had thought he had the winning combination. After his
device succeeded a hundred times in practice, Shelef had already
planned to spend the winnings on a trip to Central America with his
"No offense to the others, but I knew mine was better, a winner,"
Shelef said, dejected after his machine ground to a halt, just shy of
the required distance.
"I forgot to check the simplest part. I even had a checklist,"
Shelef said, referring to a steel rod that caused additional friction
and brought his crossing to a sorry end.
Women contestants were the exceptions. Standing on the wine-soaked
area beside the stage, sisters Meytal and Batel Gabay were a crowd
favorite with their failed but glittery contraption prominently
featuring pumps and hoses.
Second place winner Aria Huminel said he and his partner found the
materials for their wooden accordion-like device in the trash --
their philosophy was, "keep it simple."
"I wish I knew how to build these things other people have made
here, but I don't," said Huminel, 27, a mechanical engineering
student from Efrat, a West Bank settlement, adding, "and we're
cheap." Their entry was powered by rubber bands.
With tension mounting toward the end of the final round, Peleg
Harel sent off his gadget and won the prize.
"Robust" was the word several judges and onlookers used to
describe Harel's entry. Timers, motors, pulleys and gears humming,
Harel's miniature go-cart slapped two aluminum rails over the water
and moved toward a smooth, swift victory.
As the strange machine walked across the pool, a wine bottle
tipped slowly, slowly in the direction of the glass, filling it by
the time it reached its destination and planting it on the ground.
Harel, 28, a mechanical engineering student from Kibbutz Gan
Shmuel, a collective village in Israel's north, said he switched from
psychology to engineering in graduate school. He said he looked
forward to cashing the US$4,400 winner's check.
Since his kibbutz had already paid for him to earn an
undergraduate degree in psychology and wouldn't pay for a second one,
Harel said he would "spend the money right here on tuition."
"I like this stuff," said the winner. "I changed my career to do
this kind of thing."
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