By Fred Turner, the UK Young Engineer of the Year 2013.
Fred won the senior engineering and technology category of the National Science + Engineering Competition  earlier this year, and has recently finished his A levels. He’ll be starting his degree in biochemistry at the University of Oxford in the autumn.
EUCYS is the European Union Contest for Young Scientists which is held in a different European city every year and is a hub for young scientists not just from Europe but from all over the world. To enter EUCYS you need to have won a national science competition and as I won the National Science + Engineering Competition  this year I was lucky enough to be able to represent the UK at EUCYS.
This year was the 25th anniversary of EUCYS and it was held in the beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic. I’d never been to Prague before and didn’t really know what to expect from the city or from the Competition but the city was amazing and the week I spent there was unforgettable.
The trip started with a healthy dose of sleep deprivation as I had to get up at about 5am to catch the flight to Prague and make sure I could get my PCR machine through security at the airport! When I arrived in Prague we were quickly whisked off to the hotel and then immediately off to the exhibition centre where all the contestants got their EUCYS t-shirts, had some lunch and began setting up their stands.
Luckily the judging didn’t start until the next day so I had a chance to catch up on a little bit of sleep and meet some of the other contestants. Perhaps the best part of EUCYS is getting to meet people from all over Europe with similar interests – it was a real eye opener to just how much science is being done all over Europe, as we often forget to think about things happening outside of the UK.
The contestants all shared rooms and I was sharing with a guy from Belarus which was really interesting because I knew absolutely nothing about Belarus so I definitely learnt a lot! The judging started the following day and alternated between being pretty intense and being judged or questioned by members of the public, who were allowed into the contest area at certain times, and sitting on your stand for several hours with very little happening! The judging was performed by a jury of 18 experts in various different fields and all projects were judged by about six or seven judges. I thought that the judging would be pretty scary but it turned out to actually be quite enjoyable, talking to experts in your field who are just as interested and excited about your project as you is definitely not something to be scared of!
With the busy schedule at the contest it was easy to forget that we were even in Prague but we managed to get a little bit of free time to go out and see the city a bit! The buildings and architecture in the old town of Prague are absolutely amazing, especially the old town square with the astronomical clock and the old bell tower. We visited the centre of Prague at night as part of an “extended” walking tour that wasn’t on the official programme and the view of Prague at night from high up in the tower was astonishing! The Competition also included a black-tie visit to the Senate of the Czech Republic and the spectacular opening ceremony. The old town square was so beautiful, a small group of us decided to go back the next morning and have breakfast in one of the cafes in the square, although this meant we very nearly missed the start of the awards ceremony!
It was a good job we didn’t though as all 3 of us won prizes in the end! I won 1st place  and a trip to the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar which includes the opportunity to attend the Nobel Prize Award ceremony! I was shocked to have won and the press conference afterwards is still a bit of a blur. After the awards ceremony there was the traditional farewell party which was at SaSaZu which was really cool and had loads of great dance acts and a disco and although everyone had a brilliant time it was bittersweet because we all knew it was goodbye and that we would all be going home the following morning and EUCYS would be over.
It’s safe to say I had a fantastic time at EUCYS and I will never forget the amazing week I had in Prague and all the new friends that I made!