Israeli robotics competition inspires youth to innovate

Students working on their robot (Photo: Trinity College)

With significant technological contributions to sectors such as renewable energy, agriculture and medicine, Israel is quickly gaining the reputation as a global leader in technology and innovation. In fact, Israel boasts the highest concentration per capita of startups and R&D centres in the world.

Part of Israel’s success as an innovative force is its ability to impart the technological skills and creative vision amongst its youth.  For that reason, the FIRST program was established in the Negev.

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Israeli students participating in the FIRST robotics competition

FIRST  Israel is a US-based, innovative program which seeks to inspire young people in the Negev region to pursue learning and career opportunities in the fields of engineering, science, and technology.

At the crux of the program is a community based robotics competition, through which, under the guidance of mentors, participants build robots and test their skills against their peers. The program strives to reach students of all backgrounds and abilities, with the overarching goal of getting them and their communities excited about science and technology, and the opportunities that exist within these sectors.

Building robots to build community

Now in its ninth year, the program reaches about 700 youth in the Negev region, and features two levels of competition–The FIRST Robotics Competition for high school students, and the FIRST LEGO League for youth ages 9-14.  Both are designed not only to engage students in robot building but also in community research projects and community service. This is especially important in communities such as those in the Negev – to establish a community-wide mindset that youth can succeed in science and technology, and that education is vital for their community’s future.

The competitive teams are usually school based and involve at least twenty students from multiple grades. There is no need for students to have any background in robotics or engineering – the goal is to reach out to students who may not have otherwise been interested in pursuing an education in science and technology, and to make these subjects exciting and attainable for them.

Federation CJA is a member of the Negev coalition of the Jewish Federations of North America. Through our combined support we’re helping expand the FIRST program’s activities in the Negev region.

The Negev Funding Coalition currently includes eight federations: Montreal, Miami, Greater MetroWest New Jersey, Delaware, Philadelphia, San Diego County, New York, Toronto and The Rashi Foundation, each of which has made commitments to fund pan-Negev projects together. 

Marilyn Blumer, Tikun Olam’s Editor-in-Chief and Past President of Federation CJA, is Chair of the Negev Work Group of Jewish Federations of North America.

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