Winners of German School Competition “Incredible Light Machine”

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the German Physical Society (DPG) are delighted to announce the winners of the school competition “Incredible Light Machine”, initiated in occasion of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) in order to inspire teenagers to use physics and technology in a hands-on fashion. In the school competition, kids from all over Germany were encouraged to submit videos of self-made “incredible machines”. The cast number of submitted movies and the creativity of the teams from 193 schools made it very difficult for the jury to name the winner. Finally, the team “The incredible Eight” from Luitpold-Gymnasium in Munich – six girls and two boys, who built a truly “incredible light machine” – came out on top.

“The incredible Eight” from Luitpold-Gymnasium in Munich, winners of the “Incredible Light Machine” Competition.
“The incredible Eight” from Luitpold-Gymnasium in Munich, winners of the “Incredible Light Machine” Competition.

The scope was quite difficult: Among the constructions, also named „Rube-Goldberg-Machines“, items like dominoes, switches, teeter boards or other objects had to be arranged in such a way that they formed some kind of chain reaction. Then, a first impulse activates the “machine”. To avoid cheating, the video had to show the entire process of the chain reaction without a single cut. And, since the competition was proclaimed in occasion of IYL 2015, the topic “light” should matter.

The qualities of the videos and the displayed chain reactions have widely exceeded the organizers expectations: “We are highly delighted with so many submissions. Considering the sophisticated task, we didn’t expect that more than 800 pupils would participate in that project”, says Volker Kratzenberg-Annies, Management Representative for Young People (Vorstandsbeauftragter für Nachwuchsförderung). “The machines were often constructed and filmed for days. The technical quality and the physical effects of many contributions are remarkable. A big compliment also goes to all the teachers who splendidly motivated their school teams.”

“We are deeply impressed by the great response and creativity of all participants”, adds Arnulf Quadt, Member of the DPG Executive Board for Public Relations. “It’s nice to see how young people successfully work in self-organized teams, as it’s common in physics nowadays. We are particularly glad to realize, how many different relations to the phenomenon of light and optics have been created within the International Year of Light, it’s just amazing.”

The elaborate constructions of the “Incredible Machines” are using lots of conceivable objects from the household, school inventory or construction kit – and in one case even a big warehouse. Thereby, many teams surprised with utterly witty ideas: Sometime, countless schoolbooks – arranged like dominoes – are building a chain straight through the school building, another time a fuse is igniting sparklers to burn, who write the word “light” in the air. Beside technical capabilities and a skilful application of physical effects, the competition also required endurance and ambition: Again and again it had to be optimized, and sometimes the procedure just worked after the hundredth attempt. Likewise, the creativity of the pupils became apparent by the stories behind. Thus, the “Light-Machine” of the winning team is not just a succession of effects and procedures but telling a funny story at the same time which is dealing with a “Vampires-Defence-Construction”. You can check the winning video here.

The winning team from Munich will be invited for the Day of Aerospace at the DLR in Cologne on 20 September 2015 and also for the “Highlights Show” of the DPG that is taking place on 22 September 2015 in Jena. Moreover, all teams among the top ten will receive a big surprise package. The other teams will be receiving a little thank-you gift for their participation after the summer holidays.

The DPG and DLR thank all participating students as well as all teachers! It took some teams over a hundred attempts to get their incredible machine going. Some teachers did submit their movies the night or even only a few minutes before the deadline. DPG and DLR are thrilled by this level of dedication!

You can read the original press release in German on the following link and take a look at other entries for the competition on the DLR website.

About DPG

The Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft e. V. (DPG), which was founded way back in 1845, is the oldest national and, with more than 62,000 members, also the largest physical society in the world. As a non-profit-making organisation it pursues no economic interests. The DPG promotes the transfer of knowledge within the scientific community through conferences, events and publications, and aims to open a window to physics for the curious. Its special focuses are on encouraging junior scientists and promoting equal opportunities. The DPG’s head office is at Bad Honnef at the Rhine. Its representative office in the capital is the Magnus-Haus Berlin.


About DLR

DLR is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.


About IYL 2015

The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL 2015) is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations (A/RES/68/221) to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.  With UNESCO as lead agency, IYL 2015 programs will promote improved public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world while also celebrating noteworthy anniversaries in 2015—from the first studies of optics 1,000 years ago to discoveries in optical communications that power the Internet today.  The IYL Global Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP).

The Founding Partners of IYL 2015 are the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG), the European Physical Society (EPS), the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the IEEE Photonics Society (IPS), the Institute of Physics (IOP), Light: Science and Applications, the International Network, 1001 Inventions, The Optical Society (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). 

Patron Sponsors include Bosca, the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Royal Philips Lighting, Thorlabs and UL.


Melanie Lambertz
Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG)
Head Office Bad Honnef

John Dudley
Steering Committee Chair
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015

Joe Niemela
Global Coordinator (IYL Secretariat)
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015