June 17, 2024
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RKYHS Takes Home First Place In Inter-School Hackathon

Imagine being tasked with solving one of the world’s most prevalent issues over the span of one day. Seems nearly impossible? Twelve RKYHS students, ranging from ninth to 11th grade, traveled to Brooklyn to showcase their coding skills and creativity to do just that—find a solution and build a device to help solve climate change in a mere five hours. They were attending the CIJE (Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education) Hackathon, an annual event where Jewish programmers from 30 different yeshiva high schools work with members from their school to create devices that resolve real world problems and to present their project at the end of the day. This time, the students were tasked with creating a solution for the raging deterioration of our environment.

One RKYHS group decided to focus on the topic of CO2’s effects on climate change, while group two tackled the issue of industrial sites polluting freshwater. As RKYHS 11th grader Shira Elisha, a coder and presenter on one of the teams commented, “Though the competition was held in an empty, gray warehouse in Brooklyn, on February 2, it beamed with color, knowledge and innovation.”

As soon as the competition began, every student in the room—filled with an eclectic selection of wires, soldering irons and Arduino components—became an engineer, presenter and leader. The RKYHS students were split up into two teams; however, they never strayed from their RKYHS values, and per their teacher, Ms. Roth’s instruction, the competitors agreed to help one another if needed, for they were all Kushner Cobras. RKYHS 11th grader Ariel Hammerman commented, “The way Ms. Roth fostered an environment of unity between the two RKYHS teams was something truly special. When I needed help getting the WiFi component to work, I immediately went to the other RKYHS team for a new set of eyes, which was nice to have during the time of heightened competition.”

After a long day of hard work, everyone gathered together at 3 p.m. sharp for the imminent announcement of the winners. The tension in the room heightened. Since every group possessed profound dedication to their project, the RKYHS teams knew that it would be a tough competition. Once third and second place were announced, the Kushner teams began to despair, but through the loudspeakers, they heard the words that echoed through their minds throughout the whole bus ride home: “The first place trophy belongs to Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School!”

At the end of the day, when the winner was announced, every member from RKYHS, despite their different groups, stood together as champions and smiled with their first place trophy for a picture. Elisha added that “this is precisely what these friendly competitions are about: coming together to try our best and represent our Kushner and Jewish pride together. The trophy symbolizes much more than a win; it represents creativity, the importance of STEM, and how our young minds can use what we learn to find important solutions, beyond the borders of a classroom.”

Working together at the hackathon is an extension of the “learning science by doing science” model that is at the core of the RKYHS STEM program. The RKYHS STEM program includes a four year progression of courses spanning Introduction to Engineering, Scientific Engineering, Genetic Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. Students have access to university level equipment, and the labs include a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), Molecular Genetics Laboratory, Tissue Culture laboratory with biosafety laminar flow hood, C02 water jacketed dual stack incubator, ultra low temperature freezer (-80 0C), and Fabrication Laboratory featuring 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, drill press, belt sander, jigsaw and grinder. Students are encouraged to work together to find solutions for real world problems.

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