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Florida Teen Returns from Prestigious ‘SciTech’ Program at Israel’s Technion

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Boca Raton student Jonah Stein at the Technion-Israel Institute of TechnologyLike many young Americans, Jonah Stein spent this past summer hanging out with friends and focusing on games and upcoming elections. However, this high school senior did so by traveling thousands of miles from home, participating in a prestigious international science program, and applying advanced game theory to re-invent an entire foreign country’s electoral system.

The Weinbaum Yeshiva High School student traded the typical teenage summer experience (camp, job, beach trips, etc.) to conduct research with world-renowned scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; Israel’s premier science and technology university, home to three Nobel Prize winners in the past eight years.

Mr. Stein was among 37 high school students to participate in the Technion’s highly acclaimed SciTech program; an innovative curriculum for high school students with a demonstrated interest and ability in science and technology. Now in its 19th year, SciTech gives young students the chance to carry out research in a broad range of fields alongside Israel’s top scientific researchers, while experiencing dormitory living and befriending peers from all over the world. Participants this year came from eight U.S. states, Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Serbia. (Mr. Stein became the fourth student from Boca’s Weinbaum Yeshiva to participate.)

Under the mentorship of Prof. Oded Suchard from the Technion Department of Education in Science and Technology, Mr. Stein learned the basics of game theory, analyzed the electoral methods of various nations and political systems, and proposed thoughtful changes to the Jewish State’s current electoral system.

“I was really excited and honored to be selected for SciTech, since we have a legacy of participation from my school, and my family members are big fans of the Technion,” said Mr. Stein. “I did think most of the participants would be really nerdy kids, but they were all just like me – academically driven and focused, but also able to enjoy being teenagers. I met amazing people from different countries, religions and lifestyles.”

With an interest in pursuing a career in sports medicine, the seventeen year-old from Boca Raton surprised himself by choosing this particular project. “There definitely were some projects geared towards kids interested in medicine. But I decided to challenge myself and choose something outside of my comfort zone, and I’m really glad I did,” said Mr. Stein. “And yes, the whole time I was very conscious of the fact that 2012 is a presidential election year here in the U.S.!”

In applying his research, Mr. Stein and his British partner analyzed Israeli dissatisfaction with the current election system, and proposed a solution that was as democratic as possible and improved elective representation from minorities. The two developed their system using mathematical, political, and economic theory.

“I learned so many things this summer: the independence necessary to complete a project with little help from mentors or faculty; the courage to explore unfamiliar topics; and the tenacity to overcome major challenges,” said Mr. Stein. “Completing SciTech was a major life achievement for me; an awesome experience I will never forget.”

SciTech was founded by the late Harry J. Stern; a supporter of the Technion and the American Technion Society. Admission to the program is open to a limited number of students. Candidates must complete applications that include school recommendations. Final admission decisions are made by the mentor of each Technion project to ensure that each applicant will be a full contributing member of a research team.

At the program’s conclusion, each research group prepares a written report and an oral presentation for a plenary assembly comprised of peers and professors. These reports are later published, and each participant receives a certificate of completion. Some obtain credit from their high schools or from the universities they plan to attend. In addition to spending eight hours a day on their projects and working until late in the night to meet deadlines, the participants experience college life at the Technion; live in dormitories; participate in cultural and social activities; access advanced computer services, athletic facilities, and laboratories; and go on tours throughout Israel.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel’s leading science and technology university. Home to the country’s first winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel’s high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with offices around the country.

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