30 Apr Building Robots And Dreams
The first Israeli spaceship that nearly made it to the moon sparked the imaginations of thousands of Israeli children. While the whole country followed the launch (or at least those who could stay awake during the night), in a large hangar near the coastal road dozens of young boys and girls – students of Hadassah Neurim Youth Village’s robotic team – were working on another space project. They had six weeks to build a robot that could transfer cargo from one spaceship to various openings of a mother ship.
“We’re working through the night,” one of them said as he connected electrical wires.
The robot is being built as part of a worldwide competition, the first project of the Jewish-American entrepreneur Dean Kamen, the man responsible for developing the Segway and many other inventions.
Last year, a group of students from the Youth Village came up with the idea of joining the competition. “We really liked the thought,” recalls Einat Reich from The Jewish Agency Spirit of Israel program, who acts as chairwoman of village. “We saw that it wasn’t just another competition to build a robot, but an opportunity to contribute to the community and teach the kids team work, planning and design.”
The students made their way into the national competition with their first robot. They beat the odds against dozens of high schools from all over Israel to place among the top ten teams. The next stop would be to travel to Texas for the international competition. The team’s hard work during the summer to help pay the costs of the trip was well worth it as they earned first place in the category of schools entering for the first time. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can always achieve your goal,” said one student.
The course provides an opportunity to expose the children to science and technology, whether its software, electronics, mechanics or construction. And while the idea of building robots may sound difficult to some, the robotics team couldn’t imagine spending their time any other way. Many of them take this as a chance to experiment throughout the night, some even staying until five in the morning.
For many students joining the robotics team is so much more than a chance to learn and explore. “I feel that this place is like my family,” says Meinoska. “At boarding school you have the same routine so when you come into this room it’s like going to a different world where you run away from reality.”
There is no doubt that these young engineers will make a big impact in the world when they grow up.
“I’m thinking about medical engineering,” replies Meinoska, “but I know that one day I’ll achieve my great dream – to discover a problem in the human body and find an engineering solution.”
As for Sobotnik, “I don’t know yet what I want to do, but I know that my real wish is to do something good for people in any possible way.”
The educational community at the Village operates under the auspices of the Jewish Agency and Hadassah Women’s Organization to provide a warm home for students from all over the country.