January 20, 2012 Technion’s Contribution to Israeli Economy Lauded

Share on:

news_id127Canadian Jewish News
Sheri Shefa, Staff Reporter, Thursday, January 26, 2012

TORONTO  Technion professor emeritus Shlomo Maital was in Toronto last week to share inspirational success stories about Israel’s technology institute.

The Canadian Technion Society (CTS), which raises funds and awareness for Haifa’s Technion Israel Institute of Technology, organized a dinner in honour of the new Generation Next project, an initiative to attract the 25-to-45 crowd to become involved with the organization.

The event, held at Dr. Laffa restaurant in North York and led by CTS national development director Hershel Recht, Generation Next chair Jack Bensimon, and CTS president Eddie Pal, brought together about 25 young professionals who represent the future of the organization.

Technion’s Maital, an author, researcher and educator who also taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for 20 years, began his lecture by referencing a study that documented MIT’s contribution to the U.S. economy.

It showed that 26,000 businesses were started by MIT grads and if you put their GDP, their product, their value together, it would be an economy that would be the 11th largest in the world. I wondered about the Technion,  said Maital, who has served in Israel’s economic ministry and is about to release a book he co-authored with Technion professor Amnon Frenkel called Technion Nation: Technion’s Contribution to Israel and to Humanity.

He said that it cost about $1 billion to educate the 2010 undergraduate class, but their contribution to Israel’s economy is expected to be an estimated $1.76 billion to nearly $3 billion a year.

However, Maital stressed, the success of Technion graduates shouldn’t be documented using statistics, facts and figures alone.

The book, scheduled for release in June, will also present stories about the contributions Technion graduates have made to Israeli society and the rest of the world.

Maital referred to 2004 Nobel Prize winners and Technion professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover, who, along with American scientist Irwin Rose, discovered ubiquitin, a protein that causes cells to turn off and die.

Everyone in biology was studying how cells live and divide. Hershko thought it would be great to study how cells died,  Maital said.

Everyone told him, That’s a graveyard for your career. Nobody cares how and why cells die. It turns out when cells don’t die, they become something called cancer. 

Maital said that based on these findings, a pharmaceutical company developed a drug that kills cells before they can develop into cancer cells.
Maital added that one of Hershk’s friends has benefited from his scientific work. When his friend was diagnosed with stage-three myeloma, a bone marrow cancer that gave him about five years to live the drug that was produced based on Hershko’s discovery worked to slow down the development of the cancer, adding years to his life.

Another inspirational story Maital shared highlighted the work of Technion electrical engineering graduate Amit Goffer, who was involved in an accident that left him unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair.

Instead of being resigned to his fate as a quadriplegic, He asked, How can you take people who cannot move their legs and put them on their feet and enable them to walk? That’s a question with a lot of chutzpah, even to ask the question,  Maital said.

Goffer designed a prototype he called an exoskeleton, a mechanical device that a person wears on his legs.

When a person leans forward, the computer senses that and moves the leg, and then the other leg.

The technology is called ReWalk, and it enables people with lower-limb disabilities to stand, walk, and even climb stairs.

The device is being used now in veterans hospitals in the U.S. to help soldiers who’ve been wounded and crippled by war to walk. And you can imagine what that feels like for a 21-year-old ex-marine who is in a wheelchair, to be able to stand up and walk,  he said.

Maital, who said he was asked to keep his talk brief, stopped himself from sharing many more awe-inspiring stories that showcase Technion’s positive contribution to the world. But he encouraged the gathering to learn more about the technology institute and help the next generation of Technion students turn their ideas into something tangible.

The thing about the Technion is that the scientists who have made these discoveries, mostly are not satisfied with writing academic papers. They like to implement their ideas. 

January 14, 2012 Technion Engineer and Co-founder of Israel’s National Hockey Team: We Need Engineers with a Social Conscience

Share on:

news_id126Reported in the Winnipeg Jewish Review

by Rhonda Spivak, posted January 14, 2011

Next time Mark Telesnick, who is an engaging speaker comes to speak in Winnipeg, we need to make sure we get him to bring his skates, and buy him a ticket to a Jets game.

The 51 year old Talesnick isn’t only a world class engineer who established a chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Born in Toronto but raised in Kingston, Ontario Talesnick decided to make aliyah in 1982, Talesnick co- founded Israel’s national ice hockey team.

I lost to Wayne Gretsky  Talesnick told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, when he played in Kingston, noting that the team he assembled for Israel was made up of a lot of ex-pat Canadians and a few sabras too. In Israel, the team trained at Canada Centre in Metulla on the border with Lebanon, the only ice rink in the country.

Talesnick said he hasn’t been playing hockey  for a while now, although he probably still has some gear. [the Israeli team he co-founded got killed in its first game, against Spain, losing 23-4. The Israelis then beat the Turks and the Greeks in the next games, making them feel just a little like the ancient Maccabees.]

While Talesnick isn’t focusing anymore on building team spirit in hockey, he is infusing his students with a social conscience and an innovative spirit to enable them to handle global challenges of improving the quality of life of disadvantaged populations throughout the world.

As Talesnick explained when in Winnipeg in November 2011, bringing engineering solutions which enable people to improve their lives and are also designed in a way that the community itself can maintain the infrastructure is what is needed to effect major change,  which can often be done with a relatively small budget. 

As Telesnick said, It’s not enough to teach our students how to to crunch numbers We need to be training our graduate engineers as leaders in society. 

According to Talesnick, university engineering courses,  are currently designed to meet only the needs of 10 percent of the world’s population  living in technologically advanced countries, but not the other 90 percent of the world  where such basics as clean water, and sustainable energy are lacking.

Engineers need to be thinking of solutions to address these problems,  Talesnick said, noting that many engineers lacked hands-on experience and know-how. 

Talesnick spoke of how the Technion EWB team of some 25 Israeli and American students applied their know-how to help the Bedouin village of Kochle in the Negev, whose single generator provided a limited unstable supply of energy.

Talesnick heard from a Bedouin whose brother was sick in a hospital and could not be released home unless his medications were refrigerated round the clock.

The village did not have proper refrigeration,  said Talesnick, who explained how his students came up with a practical solution, a small cooler connected to a battery charged through solar panels. 

Telesnick spoke of his team’s remarkable work in a rural village in Nepal of about 1000 people, landlocked between India and China where there is no access to gas or kerosene. Old-growth forests are being cut down by the villagers as wood serves as the main energy source for cooking and heating.

Children spend several hours a day carrying wood,  noted Talesnick, instead of being able to be in school or doing other productive activity.

Women do the cooking by standing over wood stoves in huts  with little or no ventilation and end up with respiratory problems. The community’s water from the nearby river, is polluted with human and animal manure and as a result Diarrhea is widespread. 

The solution Talesnick’s Technion team came up with to solve these problems was a bio reactor. It was constructed in an earth pit about 4.5 feet deep and 8 feet across, and topped by a concrete dome.

As Telesnick outlined, when a reactor is finished, animal and human waste and food compost can be fed through an inlet into the digester compartment. There bacteria transform this waste into clean methane gas.

Although bio reactors were already widespread in Nepal and India, most were built by child labor and in a labor intensive and often dangerous lengthy process.

Talesnick’s team designed an igloo-like aluminum framework, which can be easily assembled, dismantled and reused. Twelve composite surfboard-shaped slices made from a laminate of styrofoam and fibreglass were assembled on the aluminum igloo- like frame to provide the template on which concrete was cast

That styrofoam has now been replaced by locally grown bamboo,  Talesnick said, which means that the villagers will be able to construct and maintain these bio-reactors on their own, even after his team left Nepal.

Each bio-reactor supplies a family with five hours of odor-free cooking gas a day,  said Talesnick. So far, 60 have been built.

It’s a win-win situation all around,  Talesnick emphasized.

The villagers get gas for cooking and heating, and the residue is used as concentrated fertilizer for organic farming. Fewer trees will be cut down for fuel, and the rivers aren’t pollutes with manure. This has drastically cutting down on widespread diarrhea.

Moreover, as Telsnick emphasized the cost of building one reactor comes to about $440. (not including travel expenses of the team)

A major purpose of the program is to teach professional and future engineers that beyond technology they must consider the social, economic and health problems of non-Western societies,  Talesnick added.

He spoke of a project in Mauritania in Africa where a well-intentioned engineering team installed pipes to carry water to individual homes. However, within a week, local women sabotaged the system by cutting the pipes.

The women enjoyed gathering at the village’s water pump. This was the only time they got a chance to go out, Talesnick said, in explaining their motivation to sabotage the new system.

In July, 2010,Talesnick introduced an accredited summer program for international and Israeli students at the Technion, on Engineering for Developing Communities.  Students assess the needs within the community, and after conducting laboratory work, implement their projects.

Talesnick noted that other universities around the world are showing interest in introducing similar programs in their engineering faculties.

Talesnick, who spoke before University of Manitoba engineering students said that in the future he hoped to meet with Manitoba Minister of Water stewardship and Manitoba’s special representative to Israel for economic and community relations Mel Lazareck.

The Canadian Technion Society provides support to the Haifa-based Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, which is ranked among the world’s leading science and technology universities.

Hershel Recht, National Development Director, noted that Five of Israel’s ten Nobel Prize winners have been Technion graduates.

January 12, 2012 Technion, Cornell to Form New School

Share on:

news_id125Story published in the CJN January 12, 2012

Abigail Klein Leichman

JERUSALEM  The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa will team with Cornell University to establish NYCTech, a new school of applied engineering in New York.

The proposal from the two schools was chosen by New York from submissions made by seven competing international institutions.

The campus for 2,000 students will be built on New York City’s Roosevelt Island using $100 million in municipal funds and $350 million from Charles F. Feeny of Duty Free Shoppers that will pay for the first phase of the building project. The goal is to turn the Big Apple into the next Silicon Valley by leveraging the expertise and reputation of both schools. The Technion, often referred to as the MIT of Israel, is known worldwide for its engineering innovations and technology transfer successes. Its faculty includes three Nobel laureates.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the selection of the winning proposal at a press conference Dec. 19 at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan. Technion president Peretz Lavie, who flew to New York for the event, stated that NYCTech is not meant be a branch of either school, but an entirely new and different sort of institution.
I stand before you with great excitement and pride,  Lavie said. I just returned from Stockholm, where our Prof. Dan Shechtman was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry. My excitement today is no less than my excitement was there.

He added that the Technion is in the midst of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone, which was made possible by the support of New York philanthropist Jacob Schiff.

Today I feel that we are closing a 100-year circle, a circle of a partnership between New York and Haifa,  Lavie said.

Bloomberg described the project as transformative.

Of all the applications we received, Cornell and Technion’s was the boldest and most ambitious,  he said

Cornell president David Skorton said NYCTech is expected to fuel the city’s growing tech sector  by generating jobs, startup companies and commercialized inventions.
The school is expected to open for the 2012-2013 academic year in temporary quarters while construction of the 2.1 million-square-foot, environmentally friendly campus gets underway. It is expected to include classrooms, science laboratories, a conference centre, housing and other facilities powered, at least in part, by solar energy and geothermal wells.

Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni called the new partnership more than just a collaboration between organizations, but rather an alliance of leading young minds.

From left, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology president Peretz Lavie, president of New York City Economic Development Corporation Seth Pinksy and Cornell University president David Skorton shake on the deal to establish a new applied engineering school in New York. [Photo courtesy of the Technion]