YU Hosts CIJE Hackathon for High School Students

On Jan. 29, 150 students from 18 high schools, including the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA) and the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central), descended on the Heights Lounge on the Wilf Campus for “Hackathon in the Heights,” a one-day event run by the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE) that was hosted by Yeshiva University.

Building the device

The student teams were given computer hardware, microprocessors and sensors, and in five hours, they had to design a device that would have a positive impact on the environment. Students pitched their ideas to a panel of judges that included Danielle Lev and Marc Zharnest of YU’s Office of Admissions, Sarah Just-Michael and Yosef Gillers of GrowTorah, an organization that develops garden-based experiential and environmental Torah education programs, and Seth Berkman from New York City’s Office of Sustainability.

Central’s hackers created a device focused on water conservation, designed to help people keep track of their water usage while showering. In the five hours they had, students built a website to track shower information and hooked their up Arduino microcontroller to a pump control and a timer. Aliza Beer, a sophomore at Central, enjoyed participating in the hackathon and said, “It shows how much you can accomplish in one day and solve a problem in an allocated amount of time. It really challenged us and made us focus.”

MTA took second place with a revolutionary robot that makes recycling easy and efficient. The robot recognized the difference between non-recyclable and recyclable items as well as the different types of recyclable items and sorted each into its proper receptacle accordingly. MTA’s team members were also thrilled to participate and have the opportunity to apply the skills they’ve been learning in their engineering courses to help problem solve and make a positive impact on the world.

The MTA team places second

“This hackathon helps students gain the skills they need to meet the demands of the 21st century,” said Judy Lebovits, vice president and director of CIJE. “What started with seven schools has turned into 180, and we’re very appreciative to YU for hosting this event.”