A school should never rest on its laurels. If a school isn’t improving, it is declining. Innovation isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity.

It is for that reason that we regularly seek ways to enhance the value of a TanenbaumCHAT education.  We ask ourselves: Where are opportunities to innovate? How do we better prepare students for our rapidly changing world?

One of these areas is in engineering and robotics. Thanks to a nearly $1.5 million gift,  we have launched a robotics program this year and are establishing “The Anita & Daniel Chai Engineering Academy” which will open in the 2016-2017 school year.  Both TCK and TCW will house these two initiatives.

We are investing in STEM education–education that integrates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics–because these disciplines are what is driving innovation.  STEM education seeks problems that need solving.  It teaches students how to transform ideas into realities.  It teaches students how to approach messy problems that have no clear solutions.  We are part of this innovative spirit.

This year we have done a soft launch of the engineering program by introducing robotics on both campuses.  We hired two University of Waterloo Engineering interns, Bjorn Hanks and Chris Thorogood, who have already attracted nearly 100 students to their robotics clubs. Mr. Hanks and Mr. Thorogood are smart, conscientious, student friendly mensches. Neither is a stranger to student groups, as both were leaders in their own robotics teams in high school.  They are sharing their passion for programming, system design, manufacturing and electronics.

This November, we are taking a group of interested students to Israel to deepen their exposure to engineering and robotics. This 9-day mini-mester is designed for students interested in the sciences in general, medicine and biology in particular, as well as for those interested in mathematics, engineering, and technology. The program will take place in three cities: Haifa (The Technion’s Centre for Robotics and Digital Technology Education), Beer Sheva (Ben Gurion University’s Department of Robotics and Beit Yatziv Educational Centre), and Eilat (Goldwater High School, the first place international champions of the First Robotics Competition).  It will include hands-on workshops, visits to companies that utilize robotics in their industry, and guest lectures.

Students will learn engineering concepts through the interaction with robots.  They will apply this knowledge and their background knowledge in mathematics and science to create, program, operate and evaluate different robotic models of technological and biological systems.  (To apply, go to http://tinyurl.com/minimester.)

I spoke a few students last week about our robotics program. They are beyond excited. One Grade 12 student couldn’t express enough how fortunate he felt that this program started before he graduated. Another said how she likes the spirit of innovation that fills the robotics club.  Indeed, innovation is not a choice; it is a necessity.



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