The challenge was clear, but the solution was not: Develop a technological answer to an African village’s poverty and lack of clean water.

STEM teams from nearly 20 schools gathered in Industry City, New York, to take on this challenge at the CIJE (Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education) 2023 Hackathon. Teams representing the competing schools were provided with background information and the details of the challenge by Innovation Africa, a company that shares its technological know-how to improve conditions in Africa as part of its mission to help the global community.

The students were given new technology to work with and had to create a working model of their invention, as well as deliver an effective presentation about their design. While the students’ teachers accompanied them to the event, the students were really “on their own” as they worked for several hours to develop their project. The job was intense and fast-paced, and ultimately the Shevach team emerged as a semifinalist with their working model and highly compelling presentation.

Sara Davidov, one of the team members, shared, “We learned about the lack of pure water, electricity, education, and so many more aspects of life that are considered necessities in our daily lives. My friends and I started thinking and brainstorming, and we came up with the idea of a hygienic shower. This source of water for the shower would be from a pump in the lake. The water would go through a water heater, which would kill all of the bacteria. The water would then travel through tubes and go through another filter in the shower head that would get rid of any debris that was found in the water, e.g., rocks, plastic, mud, etc., before coming out of the shower head.

“We also added a distance sensor that would sense when a person was underneath the shower head or far away. It would turn on the water when a person came near the shower head and it would turn off the water as soon as the person left, which would ultimately save a lot of water.

“We also added a temperature sensor that would tell a person how hot or cold the water is, in order to determine how much longer he or she should let the water warm up for. The website we designed would let the person know if the shower is occupied or if it is vacant. Altogether, the Hackathon was a fun and educational experience that I really enjoyed, and I would love to go back if I had the chance!”

Ahava Yusupova expressed, “I liked creating new things and being able to form a project using our imagination and skill. I enjoyed working with my team, brainstorming a project, and seeing it being made through our own work. It was fun to see many schools come together and participate.”

Yael Zimmerman remarked, “I learned website design with html and some new coding skills. I didn’t come in with any expectations of winning, but it only makes me prouder that we did. I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish in such a short time.”

Shevach High School, and especially the Hackathon team members – Sarah Davidov, Yael Goldfarb, Tehila Levant, Ahava Yusupova, and Yael Zimmerman – are truly grateful to Mrs. Paula Berger, Shevach’s STEM course instructor, for facilitating this incredible experience. Hopefully, those who are in need around the world will soon be better off…and it may just be through the teamwork, effort, and ingenuity of students just like the Shevach Hackathon Team of 2023!