Ms. Sairina Merino Tsui
The Weizmann Institute’s International Safe-Cracking Tournament is a unique competition. Unlike most conventional competitions, this competition revolves around safe-cracking, which is in the tournament’s name. In order to attend the competition, a team of 11th and 12th graders must create a unique safe that can only be broken into by completing various physics-based puzzles. This tournament is located at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. According to the Institute’s website, “judges from Weizmann’s Davidson Institute of Science Education score each team based on the originality of the physics concept, how the concept was applied, and the endurance of the safe against break-ins.”
Five Weber students recently competed in the 2017 tournament under the name of The Atlanta Safe Company. The Weber students who attended the event included seniors Becky Arbiv, Levi Durham, and Ross Williams, as well as juniors Eric Lieberman and Justin Cobb. Math teacher Mr. Spencer Roby served as the team’s advisor, while Dean of Science Ms. Sairina Merino Tsui served as the team’s second chaperone. According to Levi, these two teachers made “sure we [the Weber students] didn’t make any stupid decisions.” Moreover, Justin stated that the student teams presented a total of twenty-six different safes at the event. The Weber students finished in fifth place overall and ranked first among the United States teams. Levi later commented, “Finding out we got fifth was pretty awesome.” Furthermore, the safe was Coca-Cola themed because Atlanta is known for being the home of The Coca-Cola Company. The other teams at the competition must have liked this safe’s theme because they voted it their favorite. Weber’s safe needed to be cracked using the items given in order to successfully break into it. One of these materials, a lemon, was actually a last minute acquisition. Originally, Coca-Cola would have been used to conduct the electricity in the circuit, but the Coca-Cola in Israel is not as acidic as the American version of Coca-Cola. Therefore, Israeli Coca-Cola could not conduct the electricity properly. As a result, Mr. Roger Kassebaum, the coach of the Milken School’s team, suggested that The Atlanta Safe Company use lemon juice, which is more acidic, as the conductor. Inside of the safe was the prize, the “secret” recipe of Coca-Cola: love.
Although six teams attempted to break into the Weber safe, technically none succeeded, whereas the Weber students managed to break into two out of six of the other teams’ safes. Levi said he liked one safe in particular, which drew inspiration from the old app, Where’s My Water? The safe winning first place was also memorable, having a ski slope theme and a “cool painting on the side,” according to Justin. Mr. Roby also had a fun experience both at the tournament and during the time when the students were making their safe. He said that his favorite part was that making the safe “took hours. Days. Literally days of straight work for students to work on and reiterate, and it’s all about the process. Just like you work on a physics or a math problem, there is a lot of work that goes behind that, a lot of learning, and a lot of application that’s required. I think seeing students do that was my favorite part.” Eric agreed saying, “The reason it was so satisfying is… to know that all of our work paid off in such a big way… and how we all enjoyed building the safe was my favorite part.”
As of right now, the only two people signed up for Weber’s safe-cracking team for next year are Eric Lieberman and Justin Cobb. This is because the other three team members will graduate in May. Justin also stated, “It’s not really a sign up at this point because Eric and I are going to be recruiting,” and noted that students need to have some Physics I knowledge in order to join; having a background in Physics II will be helpful throughout the process of making a safe. Next, he explained that students need to be able to “stretch [their] creativity,” and that new recruits should “be prepared to sleep in the negative hours because [they] are going to be working a lot on this.” Hopefully next year’s team will have just as much fun as this year’s team.