17 June 2009 World ORTs robotics project is a screaming success Noisy validation of Kadima Madas success in generating enthusiasm among Israeli high school students for science and technology could be heard at a special end of year function held in Misgav last week. Scores of schoolchildren screamed in support of their friends who were pitching their robots against those of other schools participating in the Mabat project Learning Science through Technology at the Misgav Eshkol HaPayis (Community Science Facility). Seeing how proud the children were with the robots which they had built and programmed as part of the Mabat project and how excited they were by the competition was a dream come true, said Kadima Mada Technology Education field team member Shmuel Cohen, who has been in charge of Mabat from its inception a year ago. Teachers are proud of the students achievements and feel great satisfaction with the childrens commitment. Its one of the best educational projects I have seen in my life and we hope to extend it to eight more schools in the coming year. The eight schools which have implemented Mabat Misgav, Abu Snaan, Nesher, Horfeish, Tirat HaCarmel, Levinson, Shaked Sde Eliyahu and Nofei Golan took part in the end of year function, each one sending a team of 15 children and five teachers. They were joined by scores of municipal representatives, parents, educators and even representatives of non-participating schools who wanted to see the benefits World ORT can bring. The Mayor of Misgav, Ron Shani, said: Mabat is a wonderful programme. We are privileged to be in this century where modern robotics play a big part even though the pieces are getting smaller and smaller! Science and technology have also allowed us to communicate better and faster with each other and today is a good example of the connection that has been made between eight schools from the Jewish, Arab and Druze sectors. Kadima Mada is to be congratulated on its initiative to introduce this project. As Phase 9 of Kadima Mada, Mabat provides 12- to 15-year-olds with specially adapted, advanced Lego kits which, when combined with computer software programmes and specially trained teachers, allow the creation of mini-robots. The project is World ORTs attempt to revive the teaching of practical technological subjects by making them attractive to all students rather than be seen as a last resort for those children who are not doing well in traditional science subjects and the humanities. The abandonment of such study tracks over the years has resulted in a shortage of technicians in the IDF and Israeli industry meaning that there are now good career opportunities for those with the right skills. The climax of last weeks special event at Misgav was a tug-of-war competition between robots made by each school, the fun of which belied its serious educational intent and achievements. The children had to design a robot which combined both speed and strength, Mr Cohen said. But building a bigger, heavier robot for strength means that it is not as fast; a lighter, faster robot has less strength. So the children, having learned the theoretical physics of velocity, momentum and force, had to perform many experiments to find the best way of dealing with the practical problem facing them. While the tug-of-war required force, tied heats were decided by sprint racing the robots thus necessitating speed. A taste of the excitement generated by competition is available by viewing the brief video at http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3730658,00.html. The winning robot was made by Grade 9 students at Nesher High School. Their teacher, Shlomo Michel, said: The children enjoy learning through Mabat so much they can hardly wait from one lesson to the next. It is a wonderful feeling for me as a teacher to have such enthusiastic students. They like it not only because it is fun but because they are constructing something they have something at the end of the day which they can hold in their hand to show for all their work. In addition to the competition, the special event at Misgav featured a live exhibition of robots built by the schools and how they are used to prove scientific theories. And there was a lecture given by Dr Ami Dovrat, Chief Scientist at Rafael, the $1.3 billion-a-year defence technology company. Dr Dovrat explained to the children how sophisticated versions of the sensors they used in their robots were used in surveillance and targeting systems which are routinely used to save countless lives against terrorist attacks. And he told them about the Pillcam, developed by Rafael, which is swallowed by a patient and transmits pictures of the digestive tract to medical staff for diagnostic purposes. We live in a technological world and you need to understand it, he told the children. The children themselves said how much they enjoyed the Mabat course and how it benefited them even if they did not intend to pursue a technical or engineering career. For example, Amir Saab, 12, a student at Abu Sna’an, said: We learn a lot, like about weights and measures. We have to put forward a theory, do an experiment and then see if the results prove the theory. I enjoy this but I want to be an ear, nose and throat doctor when I grow up. Fellow Abu Snaan student Laren Khauri added: This programme is helping me to get good grades in science which is good because I want to be a dentist when I grow up. Matan Nidem and Liad Fitusi, 12-year-old boys from Tirat HaCarmel, were chosen to exhibit their work because of its high standards but they explained that robotics was not only for top students like them. Many kids like this subject because it makes it easier to understand science, Liad said. Matan added: We want to study engineering when we grow up and we hope that this will help us to be good enough to major in science and technology subjects in senior high school. Matan and Liad are far from being the only gifted children attracted by the Mabat programme. Misgav Principal Amir Michael said: This has been a fantastic year from beginning to end. As a result of this programme, 45 excellent pupils have registered to study electronics in senior high, instead of a yearly average of 22 moderate pupils. And the Principal of Horfeish Junior High School, Wachid Gadban, used a pun in Hebrew to stress the extraordinary progress made by children in Mabat. We don’t believe in miracles (nisim in Hebrew) but we do believe in experiments (nisuim in Hebrew), Mr Gadban said. We can see from the children who are participating in this programme that it is developing their thought processes and helping each one of them to progress more than they would otherwise have done. World ORT Representative in Israel Rony Kalinsky said Mabat was a special project with three core elements. We are introducing a subject that the pupils enjoy, we are helping to make the subject matter easier to comprehend, and we are causing group interaction, Mr Kalinsky said.