June 2, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

CIJE Innovation Day 2024

The TABC URN-EASE team.

A crowd of over 1,400 Jewish teenagers gathered last week to present projects that they have been working on all year as part of a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum. The Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE) coordinated this yearlong endeavor and the event that culminated in an amazing display of what Jewish education has to offer in 2024.

Created in 2001, CIJE coordinates educational programs in more than 175 Jewish schools across the country. Those programs impact the learning of more than 45,000 students each year and focus on both the ever-relevant (collaborating in teams, developing critical thinking skills and finding solutions) and the futuristic (the STEAM component). According to the organization, the goal is to prepare the next generation for innovation by funding programs with advanced technology, developing engaging curricula, and providing ongoing teacher training, mentorship and school visits by engineers.

CIJE held its annual Innovation Day at Dream Live, the event space inside American Dream in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Wednesday, May 22. The setup featured many breakout rooms for the multitude of presentations, along with a large central area for the awards ceremony at the end of the day.

Frisch engineers enjoying their down time at the mall.

“CIJE Innovation Day is the largest Jewish educational conference dedicated to showcasing the power of project-based learning anchored in STEAM,” said Orly Nadler, CIJE’s director of innovation. “It’s a unique gathering where students from across the Jewish denominational spectrum come together to share and explore electronic innovations. This isn’t merely a project showcase; it’s an immersive journey into the design thinking process. Students meticulously navigate through ideation, prototyping and testing, demonstrating the depth of their hard work and dedication in bringing their capstone projects to fruition.”

“Innovation Day offers students more than just a platform to present their projects; it creates an opportunity to learn from their peers. This interaction fosters a robust network and community of Jewish day school students dedicated to pushing boundaries and creating their own products. It’s a dynamic environment where shared learning is at the forefront, driving innovation and inspiring a new generation of thinkers and creators.”

The goal of the event was to celebrate the innovative endeavors of high school students around the country towards the goal of presenting their engineering projects for review by their peers and a judging panel. The event was attended by 445 teams from 33 schools across eight states.

Students having fun at the amusement park.

The students were invited to demonstrate their inventions in a “Shark Tank” style competition where they were graded on different aspects from their presentation to how well their product fit a need in society. During the year, CIJE provides mentors, specialized equipment and materials for the students. The idea of this process is to yield greater results in students by making education a hands-on experience by utilizing project-based learning.

“I loved how incredible it was to see other people’s projects,” said Adeev Cohn (SAR ‘26) of Teaneck. “The creativity of some of the other kids was really inspiring.”

The day was split into morning and afternoon sessions as students presented their projects in breakout rooms equipped with audio and visual setups. This allowed the students to focus on having to bring only their projects with them. Competitors were given a few minutes to present their product, address the different areas of the scoring rubric, and take questions from the rest of the teams in attendance. Every student was armed with a clipboard in order to grade their peers’ presentations. A winner was declared for each session in each room based on the scores given by the judges and the other teams.

The final awards ceremony.

Hosting the event at American Dream provided plenty of activities for the kids to do during the session in which they were not presenting. CIJE provided each person with free admission to their choice of a handful of American Dream attractions including Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park. This allowed the students to see what engineering can accomplish while also providing them with some fun to relieve the possible stress of presenting their projects.

“I presented last year so I knew what it would be like,” said Meirah Klayn (Frisch ‘26) of Teaneck whose project featured an AI camera mounted on a robot that would record the GPS coordinates of sidewalk cracks. “I actually love that we get to fill out the rubric for the other teams and affect who wins.”

According to the organization, CIJE’s goal is to prepare the next generation for innovation by funding programs with advanced technology, developing engaging curricula, and providing ongoing teacher training, mentorship and school visits by engineers.

“We can’t predict the future, but we can prepare for it,” CIJE says about its purpose. “Graduates of day schools, academies and yeshivot must be prepared to succeed in an ever-changing global society in order to reach their potential in careers and in life.”

At the end of the day, all the students gathered for the award ceremony that was streamed live online. Awards were distributed in the following categories: Assistive Technology, Engineering for Children, Engineering for Entertainment and the Arts, Engineering for Healthcare, Engineering for Household Solutions, Engineering for Jewish Life, Engineering for Mobility, Engineering for Older Adults, Engineering for Personal Care, Engineering for Pets, Engineering for School, Engineering for Transportation, Engineering for Workplace Solutions, and Environmental Engineering. There were also awards for Best Website Design and Best Video made about the project.

One of the presentation rooms.

With categories ranging far and wide, the hundreds of projects were extremely diverse in nature. From automatic pill dispensers to a machine that rolls a sefer Torah faster and more efficiently than your local gabbai, there was a lot to see.

Another component that has been gaining ground is the apparel involved. Many schools arrived sporting some version of school STEAM uniforms. But the event surely had the students as excited as they might be at a sporting event, so team apparel would seem to follow. Even so, there was certainly an academic feel in the presentation rooms for students that were trying to show their products’ worth.

One winning project of note was the URN-EASE, a project that secured TABC their second consecutive win in the category of Engineering for Jewish Life after last year’s automatic Torah rolling machine (Torollah) also took home first place.

“These students came to me very early on with their idea for a Shabbat urn with a built-in kli sheini,” said Aryeh Tiefenbrunn, TABC’s STEM coordinator. “During the process, they went through a lot of iterations and there were points when they were really stuck. I’m so proud of the way they worked through the challenges and created an excellent prototype.”

For many students, the development of their project meant a daily elective period on their schedule. That’s a lot of time devoted to one thing, yet most participants felt good about doing their best and weren’t that disappointed about heading home without hardware. With a competition that big, winning any sort of prize is a huge accomplishment.

School Team Members Place Category
Bi-Cultural Auto Braille Adam Daniel, Gabriel Haorn, Liam Raz, Roberto Toraty 2nd Assistive Technology
Bi-Cultural Slip Stopper Joseph Bildner, Jacob Contente, Asher Marcus, Matthew Spektor 3rd Engineering for Household Solutions
Bruriah DropDetect Raizy Friedman, Bracha Pomerantz 2nd Best Website Design
Bruriah BearBuzzer Leebie Ness, Sara Rice, Railea Witkes 3rd Engineering for Children
Frisch Blind Guide Eliezer Dimbert, Marc Dweck 1st Assistive Technology
Frisch SafeTea Locker Celia Fenster, Zvi Jenkelowitz, Yair Nemetski 2nd Engineering for Workplace Solutions
Golda Och Dospence Oren Goldman, Cayla McKay 1st Engineering for Older Adults
Golda Och SunSwift by Solstice Austin Colm, Rachel N. 2nd Engineering for Personal Care
Golda Och No-Mess Munch Mate Jolie Feig, Sophia Spigler 2nd Engineering for Pets
JEC TimeOutWhistle Tzvi Cohen, Yonatan Feit, Ezra Romanoff 2nd Engineering for Entertainment and the Arts
JEC The Laser Life Saver Eli Gottlieb, Zevi Sullivan 3rd Engineering for Older Adults
Kushner 3D BioPrinter Sean Felderman, Ru Samel, Eitan Schnur 1st Engineering for Healthcare
Kushner AlgaeAlert Ava Drew, Abigail Goldzal, Hannah Rosenfeld 2nd Environmental Engineering
Leffell TBIPro Zach Haber, Dina Kohn, Rafi Wall 2nd Engineering for Healthcare
Leffell PsiTech Rachel Benson, Maya Gitnik, Ephram Mansdorf, Ari Mayblum 2nd Engineering for Mobility
NEJA Smartswipe Betzalel Kavitsky, Yehudah Kessluk 2nd Engineering for School
Ramaz Fighting Fires Chloe Archibald, Celan Rotenberg-Schwartz, Joseph Shemesh 1st Environmental Engineering
Ramaz Tecbox Avi Lubick 3rd Engineering for Personal Care
SAR SecureCycle Noam Hibhser, David Muss, Matan Shapira-Stern 1st Engineering for Mobility
SAR CleanPet Companion Ari Blechner, Leora Blechner, Naomi Wild 1st Engineering for Pets
TABC URN-EASE Zachary Krohn, Mayer Prager, Logan Wagh 1st Engineering for Jewish Life

 

“CIJE Innovation Day is a unique opportunity for students to display and present their work,” said Adam Jerozolim, CIJE’s director of curriculum development. “The projects are manifestations of months of research and design put in by the students during their classes. The students were tasked with identifying a problem and manufacturing a solution, all on their own. They had the opportunity to complete the entire design process, from concept to manufacture, and it showed in the pride and enthusiasm they brought along with their projects.”

All in all, the day was a great experience for everyone involved. The hard work paid off and the students were treated to the type of amazing day that wouldn’t have been imaginable even 10 years ago.

Who knows? The next great invention might just have been presented that day.


Nati Burnside is a freelance writer living in Fair Lawn and is a man of many interests. He can be reached at [email protected].

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