Haifa Teen Tech event promotes technology and problem solving

Solving problems through technology is what Haifa Teen Tech participants do best.

This year’s competition, which began on July 11 and finishes on July 19, marks the second year of this international event, hosted at Haifa Technology Center in honor of the State of Israel’s 70th birthday.

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Participants include 70 student finalists, aged 15 to 18 – half from Israel and half from abroad. The teens will be split up into 12 different teams for the Haifa competition.

Haifa Teen Tech was founded by Liora Kalish, who now serves as its director. “It attracts youth from all over the world and brings them together to work with Israelis here,” Kalish said.

The week-long event includes a threeday “hackathon,” where the students develop code and use technology in order to solve problems related to healthy and safe living.

“Obviously the hackathon is the climax, and what they invent is incredibly creative,” Kalish said.

Also on the schedule is a tour of various Israeli companies and a special recognition ceremony at the Knesset.

Kalish came up with the idea for this competition as a way to reach out to youth and foster a connection to Israel, in a way they would understand.

“I thought science and technology would be a great way to bring them back,” Kalish said, adding that past participants are returning.

A member of last year’s top winning team, Quo Yuwei from Beijing, China, came back again this year.

“I will serve as a mentor in the final hackathon,” Yuwei said. “There will be other mentors as well – from IBM, Google – to help them with their device, or if they need help with engineering. I’m pretty good at Python [programming language] and artificial intelligence so if they need any help I can be there for them and share my experience.”

Yuwei said the best part of her experience was what she learned from her team members.

“I believe they have changed me a lot,” Yuwei said. “We actually changed our design at the last minute before we had to submit our design for the competition and it was a brilliant idea.”

The chance to be innovative and go with the flow is something that Shira Zur, one of four young IDF soldiers killed by a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem in 2017, had enjoyed about the program the most, according to her father, David.

“She was an officer who represented everything we are working towards here in this initiative,” Kalish said.

In her memory, a scholarship fund was created by her family to help needy participants.

David Zur said Haifa Teen Tech really embodies everything Shira stood for, especially bringing all kinds of people together.

“It’s part of the memory of Shira and, let’s say, living to her expectations,” Zur said.

A panel of judges will award the winners of the competition a scholarship to Technion and Haifa University