STEM students win award for innovation


Graphic by Sara Miller

A group of boys from NYHS’s STEM class recently made waves in the field of innovation, winning the Best Investment Award at the Conference of Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE) Innovation Day Conference held in Chicago this May. Their groundbreaking project, a smart-locking lunchbox called the “Alpaca,” impressed judges and attendees alike with its practicality and ingenuity. 

The idea for the project originated from a seemingly ordinary observation made by one of the group members. Isaac Almo, a sophomore, always had early lunchtime during his STEM class, which led to unhealthy snacking later in the day. He shared his concern with his teammates. It was during a conversation with a fellow sophomore Amiel Robicsek, who jokingly mentioned his mother’s similar struggle, the concept of a locking lunchbox was born.

Their teacher, Ms. Ariela Defunis, was unable to attend the conference, but Mr. Scheindlin stepped in to accompany the boys. Scheindlin shared his surprise at how they not only developed the idea but also how they created a functioning prototype, proving their dedication and commitment. “Seeing them make the presentation especially in light of some of the other presentations that were there, really highlighted for me how much work they put in and how successful they are.”

The road to success was not without its challenges. The team faced difficulties in gathering student responses for their questionnaires and encountered programming obstacles. Their determination paid off, leading them to a victory at the conference. According to all those interviewed, the Alpaca lunch box has a promising future.

Robicsek expressed his excitement over the award, but also remarked that it could have been even more thrilling had the competition been more formidable. “It was exciting, but it wasn’t as exciting as it could have been because the other projects weren’t very good,” he said. 

They were supposed to be part of a much bigger stem conference in New York but due to its proximity to Shavuot they were unable to attend. Almo expressed the team’s happiness at winning in Chicago while expressing hope for future endeavors. “We’re really happy that we got the Chicago one in, but hopefully we’ll be able to go to other bigger events.”

“We are so proud of the students from Ms. De Funis’ STEM II class for representing Northwest Yeshiva High School at the CIJE conference in Chicago,” said NYHS principal Deirdre Schreiber. “Their success stems from their commitment to the engineering process throughout this year coupled with Ms. De Funis’ careful and consistent guidance. Kol ha’kavod!”