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Negev Teens Make a Splash at D.C. Robotics Competition

Negev Teens Make a Splash at D.C. Robotics Competition

August 10, 2017

Robotics & High-Tech

Representing Israel, the BGU Jusidman Center for Youth robotics team recently took part in the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge robotics competition held in Washington, D.C. The diverse group of seven teens from 14 to 17 years old, all from the Negev, placed an impressive fourth out of 162 teams.

During the competition, teams from around the world had to join strategy and cooperate with other selected teams, consolidating all their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills in order to win.

The BGU team collaborated with participants from Cameroon, Belarus, Ghana, and others. Its competitors included teens from Slovakia, Cyprus, Malawi, Benin, Colombia, and Nigeria.

Their mission? To build a robot capable of “cleaning” a polluted stream using only a closed kit of pre-approved materials. The robot had to differentiate between blue and orange balls in a mock river, then separate the two colors into groups, eventually transporting the balls to an ultimate destination.

The BGU Jusidman Center for Youth robotics team in Washington, D.C.

Robots were as varied as countries. The Israeli robot resembled a forklift with a vertical pulley system. Despite competing against other teams from all over the world, the overall atmosphere was friendly, spirited and fun.

Two mentors, Aviad and Gilat Malka, both graduates of BGU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, coached the Israeli teammates and accompanied them to the competition. Gilat says her team was chosen by First Global only a month and a half before, so they had to hustle to build their robot.

The Jusidman Science Center for Youth is run by Dr. Tsiona Elkayam Cohen of BGU’s Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. It coordinates all youth-related activities at BGU and offers a variety of stimulating activities in the sciences for the Negev’s young minds.

The center’s educational philosophy is that quality science education encourages youth to pursue the sciences later in life, tie their future to academic studies at the University and to become role models in the community.

BGU may have placed in the top five, but clearly robotics was the winner. “I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” says 17-year-old Mor Taboh of the BGU team. “It’s very exciting.”