Robots get children out of their hospital beds


21 January 2009 Robots get children out of their hospital beds During Israels war against Hamas, World ORT introduced a new, technology-based science education programme at the only school which remained open in Beer Sheva in the face of rocket attacks from Gaza. While regular schools were closed for safety reasons including Makif Aleph, which participates in World ORTs Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme the education centre at the Soroka University Medical Centre was busier than ever. In addition to the children undergoing treatment at the 1,000-bed teaching hospital, the education centre was catering to the children of medical staff who did not want to leave their children at home unattended. The 300 children became the first to benefit from World ORTs introduction of a specially adapted version of the kit the organisation has been implementing in nine junior high schools in the north of the country since September as Phase 9 of Kadima Mada Learning Science through Technology. The introduction of Learning Science through Technology laboratories at the schools aims to encourage young students to enjoy studying science subjects in the school curricula. Pupils aged between 12 and 15 are provided with what at first seems to be no more than advanced Lego kits. However, once these kits have been combined with computer software programmes, a set of instructions and teachers who have received special training, pupils soon learn to build and programme mini-robots, opening them up to a new and fascinating concept of today’s industrial world. Last week, World ORT staff personally delivered 10 educational Lego kits suitable for children aged six to 16 to the education centre on Sorokas childrens ward: crocodiles which snap and roar, wind-driven sailing boats on wheels and programmable robots which move in every direction were demonstrated to the children who later used them themselves. World ORT will organise appropriate training for the hospitals teachers enabling them to use the equipment with the children. This is great, said one of the kids, Shira, aged 11. I cant believe that this is considered a school lesson We have this crocodile kit at home but we couldnt get it to move after we had built it. Even my grandfather couldnt work it out. I am looking forward to learning how to do it so that I can show my family when I get well and leave here. World ORT has been involved in Sorokas education centre since 2007 when it launched the SMILE project, under which 10th grade students from Makif Aleph join volunteers from Israels elite cadre of trainee air force pilots to bring friendship and scholarship support to young, bedridden patients. The laptops which World ORT provided for SMILE can also be used to programme the mini-robots. Esther Friedman, the Director of Soroka’s Education Centre, said: ‘The most important issue for us is that sick children will be persuaded to get out of bed every day even for a short time. This is essential for their emotional well-being and for a speedy recovery. This equipment is bright, colourful and attractive. It is not only educational; it is also fun and simple for the children to use. Thanks to World ORT, it will be much easier to persuade children to make the attempt to get up and attend the Educational Centre, now that we have these wonderful kits.’ During the Gaza conflict, the hospital was one of the safest places in Beer Sheva, a fact brought home when, just minutes after World ORT staff left the complex, a red alert saw medical and teaching staff together with children ushered into the buildings inner corridors.