The Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on the Subject of Space, headed by MK Zeev Elkin, discussed the educational value of learning about space and the ability of these studies serve as a catalyst to the studies of science and technology.
At the start of the discussion MK Zeev Elkin said that at this meeting he would like to learn about space studies in the education system and then be happy to hear a review about Space IL project.
Dr. Ofer Rimon, Director of Science, Technology and Education Office in the Ministry of Education, reviewed the office`s activity in encouraging science and technology studies. Among others, he noted that there is a science-technology army-studies program in which students learn three scientific and technological subjects consisting of five units in each subject (eg mathematics, physics and computers). He noted that the issue of space is woven into the education system for different years at different levels. For example, in elementary school students learn about the solar system, in middle school the subject of space is included in the studies of geography and in high school the area of space is reflected mainly in physics studies (dealing with gravitation and satellites). He added that there are schools where there is an aviation course and there they also studying aeronautics. Dr. Yigal Pat El, chairman of Israeli Astronomical Association, noted that the Givatayim Observatory is guiding high school students with research consisting of five units of study on the subjects of astronomy and space. He noted that many of the students continue on to study physics and geophysics. Dr. Tal Berman, of Madatech – National Museum of Science Technology and Space in Haifa, said that the topic of space is rather ”weak” in schools and that schools have to strengthen this field of study.
Later in the discussion, Mr. Yanki Margalit, Chairman of the Space IL Project, presented the program. Margalit said that this is the most significant project currently in the field of science and technology education. He stressed that the beauty of the program is the entrepreneurship of three young engineers who started ”from zero” an educational process for space studies. He added that ”maintaining the technological and scientific advantage of Israel is an acute national mission which is an essential component in Israel`s ability to ensure a strong economy and national security in the future. Unfortunately, while the Western world ”flew” forward, in Israel we are going backwards and losing the excellence in technology and science. There is a shortage of quality engineers and scientists in the country and the situation is getting even worse. With the first Israeli moon craft project we hope to create an ”Apollo effect,” which will inspire and attract tens of thousands of young people to the bosom of the world of science, technology and space, just as happened in the U.S. with the first human landing on the moon.”
The SPACE IL group was founded by three young engineers: Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Jonathan Winetraub and operates as a non-profit organization whose goal is to land a spacecraft on the moon (in 2015) and thereby inspire youth and promote technology and science education in Israel. The group`s mission is to make Israel the third country in the world to land on the moon.
Space IL is the only Israeli representative participating in the international competition Google Lunar X-Prize, a race for landing an unmanned spacecraft on the moon, in which the prize total stands at $ 30 million. The team pledged to donate its winnings to promote scientific and technological education in Israel.
Space IL Group is designing and building the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon in conjunction with the Israeli industry and academia. IAI is a partner in the project together with other leaders such as Elbit, the Weizmann Institute, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and the Ramon Foundation. President Peres also gave his blessing to the project.
The activity is designed to stimulate the imagination and curiosity of the youth in the worlds of science and technology, in an effort to preserve Israel`s technological advantage. Inter alia, as part of its educational activity, Space IL Group combines lectures and meetings with youth and children from all sections of the population throughout the country. In this way, over 14,000 children and teenagers have been exposed to the project in schools across the country (Binyamina, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ashdod, Beersheba, and more). Educational activities carried are out by volunteers in cooperation with the Ramon Foundation, the Unit for Science Oriented Youth and the Davidson Institute.
Sapir Tzach, 14.5, from Mekif Z high school in Ashdod is active in the project through the ”promoting girls in science” program and the “Dream for Excellence” project in Elta. She told the committee that: ”During the year we developed a site to receive any information from the spacecraft in real time at any given moment in space and present it to the public. In these projects, I discovered my love for science is not only a trend; it’s the future I want.” Committee chairman MK Zeev Elkin, asked Sapir what kind of courses does she plan to study next year in the tenth grade. Sapir replied that following her activities, she will choose a scientific course which will include five units each in mathematics, physics and English.
During the discussion, MK Elkin inquired about government funding for the project and was answered that the project will receive a contribution from the Ministry of Science of a million and a half dollars. Representatives of the Ministry of Science called on the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Education to add to the state funding, bringing it up to $ 3 million. (The entire project required $ 30 million).
At the end of the discussion MK Elkin said that the debate dealt with the future and the ability to restore the teaching of science and technology into fashion. He added that the government has a significant challenge in thinking about international investments and pooling resources.