Peace through robotics in Tel Aviv

Theres been a lot in the news lately about the Christ at the Checkpoint event, a collection of Christians that are critics of Israel, and worryingly some that also involved with extremist Islam, and invited some leaders from a few local congregations to make the event look ‘balanced’  – I have seen a brief bit of one the videos and I think there was some good things spoken by one of leaders of a congregation in Jerusalem I go to, but not really convinced there was a fair representation.

Is there way to bring Jesus to bring reconciliation to Jew and Arab, yes definitely!   but I will look forward to some other event I think.

Whilst this event was on, I spent three days out of town at the event in Tel Aviv, as this year I went to the FIRST Robotics event that was being held there in a sports stadium.

This event gets youth into competing in using their engineering and electronics know-how, as well as a whole host skills; team work, budgeting, piloting their machines as well as approaching hi-tech companies in Israel for sponsorship.

I didn’t manage to get many pictures this time, but can see more from my writings I did last year, here.

The teams included religious Jews, secular Jews, visiting American Christians, local Arabs, soldiers from the IDF and all girl teams too, (theres a lot of women in IT and engineering here compared to the UK)  it just so happened to have a great atmosphere and a mixture of different people groups here.  There was no mention at all of any politics whatsoever at this event.  and it felt that it wasn’t a contrived effort to make peace as anyone is invited to take part.

I was at this event as part of a project Bridges for Peace does to get involved with community work, I was just sitting up the balls on the pitch after each game session, I suppose a bit like the chap with white gloves who sets the balls up on snooker on the telly!  It was a fun event although it was a 12 hour day for us, as well as three days to set everything up before the games started.

Robotics are used a lot by the Israeli army for bomb disposal and drones to take pictures of a hostile area to relay back to a base, and the FIRST Robotics events have been happening for 20 years now in the US and Israel.

I think its very exciting that these events can take place to bolster the reputation of Israel as the ‘Silicon Wadi’ and provide a fertile environment for new talent in technology and engineering.

Tel Aviv – robotics competition Part 1 The Arena

I am up at 5.30am, its dark, I  get some tea and go out onto balcony to get some fresh air and be ready to leave the house at 6.

My friend Dan picks me up and Theuno, another volunteer from South Africa and we head off to Tel Aviv.

Instead of doing normal IT administrator work and helping our staff in the office, I have got to work on a community project, its for a robotics competition where groups of young engineers get ready to design, build a remote controlled mechanical device in teams.

Its nice to be out of the office and doing something different, and this type of event where youth with a passion for building their own contraptions and have to obtain sponsorship from large companies in Israel to find their projects, get to pitch their creations at this exciting event.

Its no secret IT and technology has been part of Israel’s best and most exciting exports to the rest of the world, this month I got blessed to go to this event, and I am planning to go to a Microsoft technology event also in Tel Aviv later this month.

A not too long drive and we are at skyscraper laden modern city of Tel Aviv, didn’t manage to get take out coffee on the way down but there is a Aroma coffee place built in the side of the building here.

This is Tel Aviv’s Nokia stadium.

Maybe it will have to be the ‘Nokia Windows phone stadium’ soon, given Nokia’s recent plan to abandon their Symbian operating system and use a Microsoft’s Windows mobile.   Bugs and frustrations in Nokia’s touch phones have caused even long term fans of Nokia to abandon to other handsets, especially given problems with the faux-iTunes-alike Ovi media software.    Switching to a non inhouse software environment is likely to result in a huge job losses for software engineers in Finland’s biggest name in IT, and staff and visitor here I see are mostly calling each other or browsing the web on iPhones.

The stadium is apparently owned by Tel Aviv municipality, and built in 1964, in 2005 it was renamed the Nokia Arena.   I guess naming sporting complexes after sponsors is becoming common place just like London’s millenium dome became the O2 arena.

This wiki article on the stadium also mentions a brief bit about the robotics competitions done here.

The stadium is fairly small perhaps by European standards holding about 11,000 people, the centre stage is less than a football pitch.   Its mainly used for Macabbi Tel Aviv basketball club to play.

Left, my friends from work help with fabricating some new pieces of polycarbonate used for part of the stage system, the current thin pieces got brittle and cracked, our DIY supremo Robbie cut these pieces and put the holes in, we had to remove the metal hinges and fix them to the new better quality 6mm plastic sheets.  A ratchet spanner makes easy work of this.

There are in-house stage staff that put up the large partitions and projector screens which are done by pulleys and also by men working up in the roof.

I chatted to a few people there, cheekily asking if there is possibility of free tickets to any bands seeing that Guns N Roses and The Scorpions have played here. 😀   Years ago, U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers played in Israel in 90s and many fans want them to come again, but I think they played in a Ramat Gan in another part of Tel Aviv, like Elton John, Metallica and Justin Beiber in the last year or so.  I have noticed Israelis are big into live gigs.

Was a long old day taking the large numbers of stage and shelving parts of this event, and got to know some local chaps, some are soldiers and some are studying engineering helping do the set up but not actually competing in the game.

A scissor lift and various forklifts are amongst lots of gear used by the stage hands here.  As well as the semi-permenant tent structures, if you look carefully the white square on the ground is an outdoor lift that can move large amounts of equipment from a truck down to the basement, however it wasn’t working today. 😦

As we went home for Shabbat, there is more set up to be done sunday but there is a different team of people to help then, the event starts on monday and I will be back wednesday to see how the competition goes 🙂

There is even people coming from Lego to showcase smaller robots made from off the shelf parts 🙂

Its jolly exciting.

Part 1: Setting up at the arena
Part 2: Meet the robots
Part 3: Robot inner workings
Part 4: Competition