ESRA ETP Volunteers Barbara Wirtschafter, Jackie Graham
and Mira Brown with some of the “Kipabots” team
Towards the end of the 2018-19 academic year, ESRA English Tutoring Project Volunteers in Modiin were asked to help Amit Boys Robotics team (The Kipabots) prepare for a trip to Australia, for the 2019 finals of the FIRST® LEGO® League Robotics Competition. The finals of this International competition are conducted in English.
Five ESRA volunteers were involved on a rota basis, giving the boys practice in general English conversation and also helping them to rehearse their presentations to the competition judges, in three categories:
• Building and programming a robot, to carry out certain prescribed tasks.
• A research project, in this case special vibrating insoles, to address the issue of astronauts’ poor blood circulation in zero gravity.
• Team work and good competitive behavior.
The Finals were held in Sydney, Australia, from Thursday to Sunday in the first week of July. The team members, together with their teacher Tzachi Green, informed the organizers that they would abstain from competing on Shabbat. The organizers agreed to move some of the missions (robot-speak for tasks) to the Friday for their benefit. Just prior to the beginning of the Shabbat, the students placed a large sign near their robot: “Why aren’t we here today? Because today is Shabbat, Judaism’s day of rest″. They also added a code that, when scanned, played a short video in English about the meaning and significance of Shabbat.
The volunteers, as well as family, friends and the wider Modiin community, were very touched to hear this news, just before Shabbat here in Israel. It became a topic of discussion at Shabbat dinner tables throughout Modiin.
The Amit Boys School principal, Lior HaLevi, shared his personal letter to his students (translated from Hebrew), just before the Shabbat of the competition:
“When I saw the sign that you prepared for Shabbat, I was moved and filled with pride. You might lose a few points in the competition, but as far as I am concerned – you have won. We have heard about Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of G-d’s name) and Messirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) in previous generations in the tragic contexts of Jewish willingness to die for Judaism. We are fortunate to be living in a generation that did not suffer the Inquisition, and the decrees of annihilation that contributed to the Shoah. Today, Messirut Nefesh is an action of love, of giving up certain things in favor of holy values and out of our sheer desire to do so, not through coercion. It is showing Shabbat as an important value to the whole world. You have merited to be such ambassadors of the Shabbat.”
Everyone was delighted to hear on the Sunday morning that “our” boys from the Junior High section of Amit Boys’ High School in Modiin had won second place in the ‘Research Project’ section of the competition.