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Bi-Cultural “engineers” take home top prize in Hackathon competition

STAMFORD, Conn.— A team of students from Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy Upper School have emerged champions of the 2020 Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE) Hackathon, held Wednesday, January 29 at Yeshiva University in New York City. The team’s victory follows on the heels of BCHA Upper School’s first-place win at the CIJE Innovation Day competition held last May in New Jersey.

Two teams of BCHA Upper School students, all members of the Stamford school’s engineering program, were among 150 students from 18 different schools to participate in the annual Hackathon, created by CIJE in partnership with Grow Torah and Yeshiva University. This year’s competition challenged students to come up with ways in which to leverage technology and the community to address the most critical environmental issues of today to create a healthier and sustainable present. Each team was then allowed just four hours to brainstorm, develop a solution, and design and build a prototype of a related IOT (Internet of Things) device.

“CIJE Hackathon gave our engineering students the opportunity to use their design, construction and coding skills to create a prototype device to solve a real- world problem. BCHA is very proud of the teamwork, tenacity and talent they showed,” said Dr. Paul Castle, who, together with William Berson, heads up the Upper School’s engineering program.

The Auto Composter created by the BCHA team of Shira Haron, Donny DeFala, Etan Doft, and Alex Kramer was awarded first place. The winning device uses a soil moisture sensor and online monitoring of the soil to automatically mix the soil nutrients as needed. The team also incorporated a Peltier tile that heated the soil to ensure maximum dissolved nutrients in the soil.

The BCHA Upper School team that included Emily Seligson, Joshua Marcus, Zane Roshe, and Joshua Schulman also successfully met the CIJE Hackathon challenge with their innovative Faucet Saver, a device intended to detect faucet leakage, notify owners via text message, and preserve runoff until the problem can be fixed. 

“At the BCHA Upper School, our students understand that they are learning and growing their skills, competencies, and confidence in order to be and become contributors to our world,” said Upper School principal Rabbi Shimmy Trencher. “Their exemplary performance, yet again, is a testament not only to their skill and training but also to their passion, creativity, and teamwork. These 21st-century skills are essential for success in a changing world and are constantly nurtured here at BCHA.”

The Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education is a non-profit organization providing STEM resources and curriculum to more than 250 schools, which expose students to problem-solving perspectives and hands-on technical skills that scientists and engineers use to solve real-world problems.

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