Civil engineering course for Israel school kids


18 November 2009 Civil engineering course for Israel school kids World ORT hopes to makes inroads into Israels shortage of civil engineers with a groundbreaking new course for high school students. Through its Kadima Mada programme, World ORT has partnered with the Israel National Roads Company and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology to provide a year-long enrichment course in civil engineering which has already attracted some 35 students to its first two sessions. Its very exciting because its the first time that something like this has been tried, said Nechama Kenig, a member of Kadima Madas pedagogical team. I was a high school teacher for 30 years and I never heard of such a course. Two final-year engineering undergraduates from the Technion are leading the 100-minute fortnightly lessons which are so far attracting some 35 science track students to the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Science Centre at the heart of Kadima Madas Science City mega-project in Kiryat Yam. They will be introduced to the principles of engineering in all its breadth but with a focus on transportation from bridge construction to making safe intersections, the geometric design of roads to an awareness of related environmental issues. High school students are learning how engineering can be beautiful, such as the Salginatobel Bridge in Switzerland built by Robert Maillart. The students, from three schools at Kiryat Yam and the Rogozin School in nearby Kiryat Ata, have been participating enthusiastically, according to Eitan Normand, 28, who is teaching the class with Ruth Peretz. The first lecture was very general and designed to show us what they know, Mr Normand said. I could see that they were very interested. In the second lecture many of them were taking notes. They are very keen to learn. But from the start we are making it as interactive as possible. This is not just Ruth and I telling them what we know. He added: The last lecture was about defining needs; for example, what it is we need from a road. Were trying to stimulate them to think about these things and to show them that what engineers do is based upon basic needs. The teenagers are giving up their free time to attend. While they are not being given homework, their demand for a project for which they could obtain credits towards their high school matriculation is being considered sympathetically. Given the uniqueness of the course, the designers of the curriculum Associate Professor Yoram Shiftan, Head of the Department of Transportation and Geo-Information Engineering in the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and his departmental colleague, Associate Professor Shlomo Bekhor can adapt it to address needs as they arise. The course was conceived in a series of discussions between Kadima Mada Executive Director Rony Kalinsky and Israel National Roads CEO Alex Viznitzer following their initial meeting at World ORTs General Assembly in Warsaw last year. Israel National Road is a governmental company which took over from Maatz, the Ministry of Transportations Support Unit. The company is responsible for Israels entire interurban road network a 6,500-kilometre network stretching from Eilat to Metula. The maintenance works include pavements, safety rails, fixed and changing signs, traffic lights, lighting, control systems, roadside landscaping, and drainage systems. Mr Viznitzer mentioned that there were not enough civil engineers in Israel and suggested that we could take a group of high school students and let them learn about civil engineering in the hope that they will choose it at university, Mr Kalinsky said. The costs are being shared equally between Kadima Mada and Israel National Roads. There are various theories as to why Israel appears to be suffering a shortage of engineers but one thing is for certain, it is a problem reported in many of the major developed countries. I like engineering so much that I find it hard to understand why there is this shortage, Mr Normand said. It is such a broad discipline I, for example, am studying soil and water engineering and taking three courses in transportation engineering. You could end up designing a massive project, something very impressive and long lasting. But I think its hard for some people to see the beauty of it. I am trying to show the kids how beautiful it can be.