HAFTR students put engineering skills on display


Challenging students to focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and having them use that knowledge to produce a project which could spur them to a career applying those principles is the mission of the Manhattan-based Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education.

The eight-year-old center hosted its second annual Young Engineers conference at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) on May 30. Lawrence-based HAFTR, Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett and Davis Renov Stahler (DRS) High School for Boys in Woodmere were three of 14 high schools that took part in this year’s conference that included 85 projects.

Throughout the school year, students are taught science, technology, engineering and math, and then apply that learning with the assistance of their classroom teachers to create a scientific-technological product. The project’s focus is not just on content, but also on the process, research and development.

“We felt this will prepare our students with the skills needed in the 21st century that they can understand and apply,” said Judy Lebovits, a Woodmere resident, who is a center vice president and director. She pointed to biomedical engineering as a developing field where these skills can be applied.

Student projects that lined the gymnasium at HAFTR were grounded in science, but focused on social applications that could solve a range of problems from carbon monoxide poisoning to ensuring that football field goal kicks would be ruled good or not good correctly.

“Behind the engineering is to be socially minded,” said Sol Yousha, a HAFTR STEM teacher, who guided his students through their projects.

Google senior engineer Ronald Blum was keynote speaker between the morning and afternoon sessions. His remarks focused on how best to fix problems and handle failure. “The better engineers are always doubting themselves,” Blum said. “They are full of doubts and always improving.”

DRS student Yosef Pfeffer, who partnered with classmates Ezra Dweck and Ari Brandspiegel on creating sensors to ensure field goal ruling accuracy, said he learned more than just about science by creating this project. “Mostly working as team on a program and putting an idea of our own into action,” he said.

Jeffrey Bessen is editor of the Nassau Herald, where this story first appeared, with additional photos.