For the second year in a row, the team of students from the Jewish Educational Center’s Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy High School in Elizabeth has been selected to compete in the Gildor Family Projects and Inventions competition in Israel.
At the North American round of the contest, held May 15 in Paramus, the JEC team tied for first place with Hebrew Academy of Nassau County in Uniondale, NY, beating out contestants from three other Jewish schools from across the country: San Diego Jewish Academy, Magen David Yeshiva in Brooklyn, and The Frisch School in Paramus.
The JEC team and the runners-up will take part in the international final round in Jerusalem in late June, with the trip subsidized by the sponsors.
The team members are Micah Lebowitz of Highland Park; Ethan Lerner, Edison; Noam Shachak, Staten Island; Pinchas Teitz, Hillside; Tzvi Vogel, Linden; Rafi Taub, Staten Island; and Shimon Niren, Elizabeth.
Last year’s JEC team placed as well but did not win the final round in Israel.
Organized by the Israel Center for Excellence through Education, the Gildor program is designed to foster initiative in top-level high school students, along with problem-solving skills and scientific and mathematical thinking. Students use skills they acquired in the program to design and build an original invention whose aim is to solve a problem faced by society.
The North American involvement was sponsored by the Gruss Foundation, working with the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education.
Last year’s contestants designed systems to deal with and recycle waste water. This year, participants were challenged to build a robotic car that can perform various tasks. According to their coach, science teacher Ken Dietz, members of the team have been working for months to fine-tune their vehicle, spending many hours between and after their regularly scheduled classes.
JEC associate dean Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz said, “We are exceptionally proud of our students’ achievements. Their hard work really paid off. We are especially proud that this is the second year in a row that we have won this honor.”
Dietz said the boys designed the car entirely on their own, using a robotics kit. They also did all the necessary computer programming. “The car is equipped with sonars so that it stops quickly if there is a sudden obstruction in its path, infrared sensors to be able to follow a 200-meter multi-curved line, encoders and compass technology to navigate a ‘dead-reckoning course,’ tank treads covered in sandpaper to climb a 17-degree incline, four motors, and touch sensors on the sides to prevent it from ‘falling off a cliff.’”
The car also sports solar cells, designed by the students, that enable it to run completely on solar power. “Students did research to choose the best technology for handling all of the tasks presented,” Dietz said. Over the next six weeks, they will put the finishing touches on their design in preparation for the finals in Jerusalem.
He added, “JEC wants to congratulate the other schools; our students were very impressed with the creative solutions designed by the other teams.”