One of the main challenges of the Cleantech industry is resources, but we’re not talking about water or energy resources, but rather human resources. In order to develop breakthrough technologies that will make a real impact on our world, we need to raise a generation of engineers and researchers in the relevant fields – physics, chemistry, biotechnology and more. In order to bring promising young people to study these sciences we need to raise their interest, and attract them to these fields – and this is the challenge, especially today when many are running off to study business, computer science, accounting and other disciplines which are perceived to be more profitable.
This is why it’s gratifying to discover that there are kids who know where the future lies – the 7th graders at the Silver Town School in Israel developed a promising system for water reclamation, and won first place in the “youth drinks water and knowledge” competition for innovations in the Cleantech arena, which took place in the beginning of May.
So, how does it happen? In the framework of a government program which was launched in 2006 to advance the water industry in Israel, it was decided to advance educational programs on water, amongst other activities. It was clear that in order to foster the industry, school kids would need to get the message that Cleantech is the future. An educational program was launched ““Youth drinks water and knowledge.” According to Dr. Amnon Shefi, who initiated it, this is a program which “changes and develops according to the quickly evolving nature of knowledge, making it necessary to learn new things, and to innovate, because the knowledge in the world is doubled every 8-9 months,” he explains.
The program includes advanced learning material based on Israeli excellence in the water sphere, as relevant to a wide range of scientific and technological disciplines, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Israel NewTech, the program for the advancement of water and energy, of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour, the Israeli Water Authority, the Technion and Israel’s water industry.
The program has been active for the past four years in a limited capacity in middle schools and high schools across the country, and the objective is that it will become a multi-year program, with a high school matriculation in water and a direct path to participation in the international Stockholm competition in water innovation for school kids. Up until now, 1000 kids have participated in the program, with the teaching done by school teachers with the professional guidance of Dr. Amnon Shefi’s company Hi-Teach.
In the annual competition which is the climax of the program, and in which the students of the Silver Town School won first place, 12 teams took part, selected out of the dozens who entered the competition from middle schools and high schools from all across Israel.
The program and the competition are funded primarily by companies such as Tahal, Bermad, Karaso and others, with Israel NewTech and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour matching each donation dollar of dollar. Participating companies give not only money, but also their time – hosting the kids in learning visits, giving presentations in classes, building models, helping to put together the content and helping to structure the teaching program.
According to Adi Yefet Beeri of Israel NewTech, the Israel NewTech program is active in a number of ways to encourage human resources in the Cleantech arena, “And the industry needs to understand that investing in the next generation is for the benefit of our generation – we need more water engineers and cleantech professionals. It’s in the interest of the Industry. This is the sustainable approach, meaning one which takes the future into consideration,” she concludes.
Israeli schools or companies interested in participating in the program or donating, are welcome to contact Dr. Amnon Shefi