June 15, 2005, Haifa, Israel - Last week, the IBM Haifa Research Lab held a graduation ceremony for 40 students who were adopted by the lab as part of IBM's community relations efforts. The junior high school students, who study in the Haifa area, were chosen by the Haifa municipality and the Association for Change in Education because they were at risk of dropping out of school.
This is the second year in a row that the IBM Haifa Lab is carrying out a semester long project for junior high school children. The IBM employees and researchers were very keen on contributing to the community, especially in light of the very positive feedback received the previous year, where almost all the children improved their average grades in school by a significant amount.
"The IBM Haifa program gave these children a whole new perspective on science, on learning, and on their own potential for achievement," noted Vered Ronen, regional coordinator for the Association for Change in Education. "The teachers, principals, and families of the students noticed how their attitudes changed over the year, but most of all, it was the students themselves who began to understand what they could achieve if they put their mind to it."
Over the course of the school year, the students visited the Haifa Lab at least once every two weeks for lectures, workshops, individual coaching, and special projects. Through unique approaches, they learned about computers, English, building web sites, the Internet, speech technology, robotics, and much more.
At the graduation ceremony, the students presented their projects. The showcase included a web site on the environment, robots that could play music or count pages, a 3D computer game, logic puzzles, a personal computer built by the students, and more.
Some of the students spontaneously got up and read letters of appreciation thanking the researchers who worked with them and gave them a chance to see what the future could hold. Many of the IBM researchers and employees who took part in the program, noted that they themselves gained as much as the students did. "I really looked forward to my time with the kids," noted one researcher. " The kids themselves were amazed at what they accomplished over the year, and it was great to be part of this contribution."
Oded Cohn, director of the IBM Haifa Research Lab, encouraged the graduates to remain enthusiastic and continue pursuing knowledge. "Not everyone is cut out to do great things all on their own," said Cohn. "More often than not, we see that the most amazing accomplishments are achieved through the kind of teamwork you experienced here."