Sunday, April 29, 2007

From Darfur to Robotics

FIRST is an international competition that engages teenagers in technology. Their best known competition is in robotics, but they have a bunch more. My connection to FIRST is through coffee (I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of FIRST, Dean Kamen, next to the espresso machine at Google), and through family (my brother-in-law Asaf Menuhin has been running the FIRST competitions in Israel). The following inspiring story appeared in an Israeli newspaper and was forwarded to me by my parents.

"A" is a 16 year old student who escaped the killing in Darfur two years ago. He somehow got to Egypt, and from there crossed the Israeli border. Initially, he (and the others with him) were arrested. After a while, he was let out and joined the Kfar Yamin boarding school not too far from Haifa, Israel. "A" immediately became a star student at the school. One night, when he was walking around the school he noticed the lights on in the science lab. He went in and saw a group of kids preparing for the FIRST regional robotics competition, and immediately fell in love with robotics. Shortly after, he became the leader of the group. "A" led the group to an impressive 4th place standing in the Israeli regional. He was disappointed because that was not enough to earn him a trip to Atlanta for the finals, but everyone else is still in awe of the huge step this young man made in such a short time. I bet Dean did not anticipate this story when he started this amazing establishment!

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