Landman, Schuster Host Israeli-Arabic Team in FIRST Robotics Championship

Last weekend saw thousands of students descend upon the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the FIRST Robotics Championship, the annual robotics competition founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen.

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Provost and Professor Gary B. Schuster speaks with Hanan and Hosni Zoubi, two members of the Eastern Stars, a FIRST Robotics Championship from eastern Israel.

This year, School of Physics Professor Uzi Landman hosted a team of Israeli-Arabic students from several villages, each with about 2,000 people in eastern Israel. This is the team’s first year to compete in the FIRST competition.

The team, which consists of 25 Arab high school students and five teachers, hails from the Achva Gilboa Comprehensive High School, which serves nine Arabic villages near Nazareth. This school is part of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network.

“You don’t have to be from Jerusalem or a big city to win the competition, you can be from Gilboa, too,” said Israeli native Landman during a meet-and-greet some members of the team held with him and Provost Gary Schuster before the competition started.

This year’s competition boasts more than 10,000 student participants from 30 countries competing with 533 homemade robots. Each team has won at regional competition to make it to the championships.

The students worked seven hours per day after school to build and test their robot with their parents bringing dinner from their home villages every night. “When we won the [regional] competition, all of our village came out to help us celebrate,” said Hanan Zoubi, a student on the team. “It was like a wedding with the caravan of cars that we usually have.” Hanan wants to be involved in robotics when she graduates.

The name of the team is the Eastern Stars. They have such a love of Star Trek that they named their robot “Enterprise NX-1” after the starship in the television series, “Star Trek: Enterprise.”

The Eastern Star’s motto is “Technology for Tolerance.” Although they’re in Atlanta to compete at FIRST, using their knowledge to help create a better world is first in their thoughts. “This project taught us to work together to use technology to help other people,” said Hosni Zoubi, a student on the team who eventually wants to study and work in medicine.

More than 500 teams competed in three levels of FIRST: FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition. According to a FIRST release, the Eastern Stars were not included among the winning teams.

“I hope you win the competition,” Schuster said as their meeting came to a close, prior to the event. “In my view, you already are winners.”