A jubilant team of seven boys from the Jewish Educational Center’s Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy in Elizabeth, a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, won the prestigious international Gildor Family Projects and Inventions Competition in Israel.
It was the third time in three years that a JEC team has won the United States round of the science and technology competition, but the first time they have taken the top prize. It was also the first time a school from outside Israel has won. The JEC team topped dozens of finalist teams from around the world.
The final round was held in Jerusalem on June 28. The annual contest requires teams to research, design, build, and implement an invention that addresses a given societal issue. This year’s challenge was to design a system to be used at airports to minimize the risk of birds colliding with planes on take-off and landing.
The RTMA team came up with a multifaceted system powered by “green energy” solar cells.
When the call came through to the JEC office last Thursday, Associate Dean Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz said there were whoops of joy. “We were so elated,” he said. “Maybe the third time was the charm!”
The team consists of students in grades nine and 10, ages 15 or 16. It was captained by Rafi Taub, who is from Staten Island, and includes Uri Shalmon, Tani Ben-Haim, and Micah Leibowitz of Highland Park; Noam Shachak, also from Staten Island; co-captain Brian Goldman of East Brunswick; and Eitan Adler of Springfield.
Science teacher Ken Dietz selected the members from those who asked to participate, together with school principal Chanie Moskowitz. Dietz also served as project coordinator and mentor to the team, and he accompanied the boys to Israel. “The level of multifaceted knowledge, discipline, and organization was impressive,” he said.
Reached by e-mail in Israel, team leader Rafi Taub wrote that “it felt fantastic” to win.
Their design included a range of devices meant to scatter geese, including speakers playing distress calls and predator sounds and an ethanol cannon, as well as an early warning radio device for pilots.
“The important feature was the radio and the fact that we designed a system, not just one unit,” said Taub. “Also the attention to every aspect of the project — even the choice of paint — was thought about: It was painted red and white to make it clearly visible and to identify it as a non-moving object at an airport. I think that really impressed the judges.”
He added, however, that the boys were very tired from not having had enough sleep the night before. The reason? “We found something broken that we didn’t have the equipment to fix.” It was, he said with some understatement, “somewhat stressful.”