J’lem teens excel in Intel, Swedish competitions

Two students win third place in Intel science, engineering fair; another pair takes first in Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

Gal (left) and Nerya present their project [file] 370 (photo credit: Courtesy of JCT)
Gal (left) and Nerya present their project [file] 370
(photo credit: Courtesy of JCT)
Within a week, two students from the Torah U’Mada yeshiva high school of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) won third place – among 1,500 candidates – in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, and another pair finished in first place in the Israeli competition for the Stockholm Junior Water Prize in the field of energy and water.
The Intel contest winners, Nerya Stroh and Gal Oren, received $2,000 each for their work on a user-friendly computerized device called AquaStop that detects water leaks in apartments, buildings, factories and neighborhoods in real time and can even halt the water flow.
They now serve in the IDF in the field of computers. In December 2010, Stroh and Oren – now 21-years-old – won first place in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize held among Israeli pupils.
The 2012 winners of the water prize are Torah U’Mada students David Agassi and Bashan Yehezkel. Academics in the JCT’s “13th Grade” program (which provides pupils with a bachelor’s degree in engineering before they enter military service), they will travel to Stockholm in the fall to compete in the International Junior Water Prize competition, run by the Swedish royal family and sponsored by the country’s government. It was the first time that the same school took first prize in the prestigious competition.
As in 2010, Swedish Ambassador Elinor Hammarskjöld is due to visit the JCT campus in the capital’s Givat Mordechai neighborhood to present the award to the 19-year-olds.
Both winning teams were mentored from start to finish by David Gelman, a veteran electrical engineer at JCT at the college level who also teaches high school pupils at Torah U’Mada. He accompanied Stroh (whose father, Uri, is also an electrical engineer and encryption expert at JCT) and Oren to the Pittsburgh competition. The Alcoa corporation contributed another $1,000 to the Intel prize for total winnings of $2,000 for each young man, Gelman said.
In Pittsburgh, 100 teams of judges divided up the work, Gelman told The Jerusalem Post, but 50 teams individually decided to visit the Israeli stand because of the interest generated by the invention.
He said he teaches the same subjects in the high school and the college. “But a course that I give at the college in just one semester, I teach more slowly – in a whole year – at the high school level,” said the Russian-born engineer.
JCT president Prof. Noah Dana-Picard told the Post this week that he was very proud of both teams – the older ones who excelled at the Intel competition and the younger ones who received their award at a Tel Aviv University ceremony.
The Swedish competition brings together the world’s brightest young scientists to encourage their continued interest in water and the environment.
Each year, thousands of participants from over 30 countries join national competitions for the chance to represent their nation at the international final held during World Water Week in Stockholm. During their time there, winners of the national competitions receive an opportunity to meet and learn from the present leaders of the global water community, and forge lifelong friendships with international compatriots who share a passion for water and science.
Agassi and Yehezkel developed “a smart sun heater” that makes it possible to save not only water but also energy in any home. Their project is also thought to solve the halachic problem involved in using water warmed up by solar heaters on Shabbat, which are otherwise forbidden because they cause cold water to be heated up.
In another five weeks, the two will receive their bachelor’s degree in computer science from JCT as part of the joint high school-college program.
Torah U’Mada co-head Natan Klein told the Post that the school excels because of the students and the staff, many of whom also teach at the academic level at JCT in a multidisciplinary way. “A few months ago, we were told by the Education Ministry’s technology department that four of 10 high school projects chosen for excellence came from Torah U’Mada,” he said.
The school’s principal, Rabbi Amos Kleiger, added: “Four of our graduates have won the Israel Defense Prize as adults.”