E-lectrifying teens about engineering
Israeli IBMers help get kids excited about a technical education during EWeek
IBMers across Israel recently helped promote the engineering profession to hundreds of Israeli high school students as part of EWeek, the international program designed to encourage young people to pursue a scientific career.
The program's name is now actually a bit of a misnomer, explained Sara Porat, EWeek coordinator for Israel and University Relations manager at IBM Research – Haifa.
"EWeek no longer focuses just on the 'E' in engineering," Porat said. "We try to get kids excited year-round about a variety of technical education and career options in the domains known as STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics."
EWeek in Haifa and Petach Tikva
IBM Research – Haifa has traditionally been the linchpin of EWeek activity in Israel, and this year was no exception. But Porat expanded activities in Israel this year, involving employees and developers from other divisions of IBM in the country.
This year's activities focused on a week in early March in which more than 700 teens from around Israel attended programs at IBM sites in Petach Tikva and Haifa. During the first two days of the week, students from the Greater Tel Aviv area came to the headquarters of IBM Israel in Petach Tikva to hear presentations from IBMers on such topics as software development, social networks, and healthcare technology. In Haifa during the second half of the week, teens from schools around northern Israel came to the IBM site to hear presentations on subjects such as speech recognition and preventing epidemics.
Smarter bus routes
All the presentations focused in one way or another on IBM's smarter planet vision. IBM Israel Software Lab developer Gili Nachum, for example, gave a talk in Petach Tikva on how school bus routing can be made smarter by using technology.
"I introduced the topic and then took suggestions from the kids as to how we could achieve our goal," Nachum said. "I showed them how engineers can utilize input from already existing sensors on and near the bus, such as GPS, weight sensors, speedometer, and security cameras to optimize the bus route. I explained to them that anyone can become a programmer/designer and that it's really interesting to have such a job."
Selecting science for a better future
The timing and scale of the big events is critical, Porat explained. All the teens who attend are ninth-graders, and in tenth grade most Israeli students start a specific track of studies that they continue to the end of high school. "The decision of which track to select is made near the end of ninth grade," she noted, "which is why it's so important that we try to reach a large number of students and influence them to study math and sciences."
In addition to IBM's large-scale EWeek events, other IBMers in Israel spoke in classrooms, school events, and other student programs around the country. But as Gili Ginzburg, manager of the Administration team in the Israel R&D Labs and community relations coordinator explained, much of the community-oriented programming that takes place in the IBM labs in Israel is related to EWeek in one way or another.
"EWeek activities are defined as any education effort that targets kids," she explained, noting that more than 1300 children overall -- including more than 40% girls and 12% minority students -- participated in this year's IBM EWeek programming in Israel. "So talks at schools, our long-term youth education project, and the large-scale activities in Haifa and Petach Tikva, all fall under the EWeek banner. In the end, they're all aimed at the same thing – showing teens how they can better themselves and improve the world they live in."