For the first time, an all-girls school has taken first place in a national science competition for Jewish day school students.
And a first-year teacher, Noam Weinberger, helped lead Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls to victory.
The eight members of the Teaneck, N.J., school’s team, which placed first in the United States division of the Gildor Family Projects and Inventions Competition, will travel with Weinberger to Israel next month to compete against several Israeli schools.
Sponsored by the Israel Center for Excellence in Education, the Gildor challenges young scientists to use creativity and knowledge to address a given societal issue. This year’s challenge was to “design a ‘smart’ system to prevent train/vehicle collisions through the use of automated elements and electronic sensors.”
The Ma’ayanot team, composed of Liat Clark, Sarah Hiller, Chaya Levin, Devorah Saffern, Ahuva Shafier, Tova Sklar, Sarah Weinberg and Kira Paley, solved the challenge by building photo-sensors to detect the car and train, electromagnets to stop the train and rubber rollers to move the car to safety.
“What made the system stand out was its practicality,” Weinberger told The Jewish Week. “Many of the solutions were creative but not so practical. Ours was simple and reasonable and didn’t require too many contraptions.”
While initially open just to schools in Israel, for the past six years the Gildor competition has invited American Jewish day school participation as well. Ma’aynot beat out six other American schools in the yearlong competition, which involved writing a research report, presenting an initial project proposal, participating in an online competition and submitting additional progress reports.
“It’s a team-oriented engineering competition,” explained Joel Javitt of the New York-based Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education, which oversees and sponsors the qualifying competitions in the United States.
Last year’s U.S. finalists (the challenge was to design a “device for distancing birds from airfields and agricultural lands) were the RTMA/Jewish Education Center of Elizabeth, N.J., and Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, Queens.