Israeli technologist and scientist Mordechai Ben-Menachem says the future of Israeli technology is safe in the hands of its youth – and by youth, he means our six year olds.
A former researcher and lecturer at Ben Gurion University, Ben-Menachem says, “If you think Israel means technology now, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until these extraordinary youngsters grow up. They’ll change the world more than anyone can even imagine.”
Three weeks ago, Ben-Menachem went to visit friends to celebrate the birthday of their six-year-old and while there he was told by the child that her kindergarten class was studying space.
“I was surprised,” he later related in an email to friends. “Such a thing had frankly never occurred to me, that children of that age could learn something like that, or that a Gan teacher could teach that.”
Having mentioned that he was formerly a senior manager in the Israeli space program, the young student asked if he would come to her class to tell them about it. Her mother immediately followed up with a call to the teacher, who agreed.
This week, Mordechai Ben-Menachem found himself in the classroom. He described it as “one of the most extraordinary experiences of [his] long life. Here we have a group of about 20 youngsters, all around six years old. Not only were there no discipline problems, they all listened beautifully – but they asked absolutely marvelous questions.”
Ben-Menachem told them a little about the sun and the solar system, then discussed with them, “and I emphasize ‘with’” he says, the concept of space, distances and observing from the earth’s surface (planetariums). He then began to speak about satellites of various types.
“Israel, of course, is a leader in satellite technologies and was one of the first – I believe we were the sixth – countries to not only build a satellite, but to place it into orbit, by ourselves,” Ben-Menachem says .
“We have many different types of satellites. Ofeq is a spy satellite, Amos is a communications satellite and there are many other types,” he says casually. “Those two are the largest. Our satellites include nanosatellites and even a moon project; the latter, a private industry project.”
His lecture to the kindergarten class included a power point presentation with two links to videos – one of the liftoff of Ofeq 11 and the other of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died in the Columbia shuttle re-entry explosion.
“I was amazed – am amazed – by the children,” he says. “Not one or two, but by nearly all of them. They took great interest in this, participated in a disciplined, polite and fantastically intelligent discussion.
“I consider myself to be extraordinarily lucky to have had this interaction. It’s intended to be the first in a series of three lectures to this class, and I am very much looking forward to the next opportunity!”