Continued fractions, beavers and Euclidean algorithm

During their free time, pupils contemplate new energy sources and count beavers
By Yekaterina Semenova

For the second year, Minsk pupils have had the opportunity to take part in a scientific-engineering competition, with 256 applying across 191 projects. In all, 72 were chosen for the final and four winners were selected to represent Belarus at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, being hosted by the USA in May.

One of the BSU Lyceum’s floors currently resembles a museum, with stands presenting each project. On judging day, one author acted as a guide, to explain their innovation. One of the 8 categories, ‘Informatics’, saw 11th former Pavel Batsylev, from Starye Dorogi, demonstrate a mobile app solving chemistry tasks: Chemistry Х10. After entering data, the app can give a detailed answer. He explains, “I felt too lazy to do my chemistry homework, so I wrote a programme to solve the task!”

Pavel’s classmates soon began using the app, vastly improving their marks; his teacher has chosen not to apply any punishment to the ingenious young man.

Eleven ‘biological’ works were submitted: on uses for tea, duck-layers and, even, beavers. Alexey Goroshchik, an 11th former from the agro-town of Kurkovo, in the Smolevichi District, has managed to count all the rodents in the region. He notes that scientists often argue that the district’s beaver population is excessive. Accordingly, he set about calculating their number mathematically. He comments, “I asked huntsmen to note the beavers’ routes for me and then began to travel across the region, counting the beavers’ lodges. Knowing that each tends to house four beavers, I was able to verify this and discovered that their overall number in the Smolevichi District is 362: an acceptable figure.”

Young ecologists demonstrated their knowledge of environmental pollution and the processing of waste, including how to use sunchoke as fuel. Yelizaveta Solokhina, an 11th former from Zhodino, explains, “My parents wondered what to do with all the suhchokes at their dacha, so I began researching and realised that you can turn them into cheap fuel: gas, ethanol and briquettes. A 1kg briquette can be used to boil 40 litres of water. The plant reseeds itself and is disease resistant, so it’s ideal.”

It seems that the imagination of our pupils is boundless: they can examine microorganisms, and launch a satellite into orbit. Pavel Batsylev and Yelizaveta Solokhina are among the four winners, joined by Nikita Kondratenok, a 10th former from Minsk who has investigated continued fractions and the Euclidean algorithm. The fourth victor is Vitebsk’s Roman Polyakov, with his magnetic levitation brushless solar motor.
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