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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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Fundraiser highlights Technion’s hockey-training project

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From left are Janis Raisen, Jack Bensimon, chair of Canadian Technion Society’s Generation Next; Brian Gordon and CTS board member Edward Nagel

The young professionals who launched the Canadian Technion Society’s Generation Next division at Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame didn’t just plan a party: they hoped to partake in a breakthrough technology that would turn sound waves into electricity.

Funds raised from the official launch party on Oct. 16, along with an online social-media fundraising campaign, will support Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Prof. Yehuda Argnon’s project to build a prototype of a low-cost device that could transform sound waves into electricity.

“You could say that Generation Next is giving you the chance to participate in history,” said Neal Closner, speaking to a packed room of about 200 people. “We together will all build [it].”

Established in 1943, the Canadian Technion Society (CTS) promotes and funds Technion, known for its groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of medicine, biotechnology, nanotechnology and science.

But the 69-year-old organization didn’t know how much longer it could last if it didn’t interest the younger generation.

“When I came in, hardly any young people were involved in the organization,” said Hershel Recht, national development director of the CTS. “What we needed to do was to find a way to bring young people interested in high tech and technology to make sure the Technion name survives in Canada.”


His father was once the national president of the CTS many years ago, and Recht said he “endowed in me the importance of the Technion my entire life.”

But Recht and his team at Generation Next aren’t looking for just anyone – they want young professionals who are seriously interested in supporting high-technology engineering and medical innovations, and will become the CTS’s future board. “That’s what we need, and what we hope to do even more this year,” said Recht.

To showcase the Technion’s innovative capabilities first-hand, the event demonstrated one of its newest developments, the Hockey IntelliGym, a computerized training program that simulates real hockey games using applied cognitive engineering technology to literally develop new instincts. It trains athletes’ minds to react quickly and intuitively to every action on the ice, with the goal of developing a new “hockey sense.” Players who used the software saw a 30 per cent increase in performance.

The technology was originally developed to train air force pilots to react to flight challenges and minimize life-threatening aerial damages. There was a 30 per cent improvement in flight performance in air force pilots that used the software for only 10 hours.

“It’s a workout gym for the mind,” said Scott Woodrow, a CTS board member. “It improves game but also avoids injury.”

And since the Hockey IntelliGym was the sponsor of the event, it was only natural to have it take place at Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame.

As the young professionals mingled with the CTS board members and staff, a video played on screens around the room, highlighting the Technion’s history over the last 100 years: its founding in 1912, to Israel’s first Nobel Prize in science won by Technion alumni Aaron Clechanover in 2004, to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the school in March 2012, when he said not to just give money to the Technion, but to “invest money in the Technion.”

In fact, the Technion’s achievements hit close to home, too. “The next time you gaze at your iPhone, consider the Technion did in fact help create this. The next time you ponder the security of the western world, consider the Technion is playing a role in its defence. And the next time your favourite NHL team is struggling for a playoff spot… the Technion did develop a solution,” said Woodrow.

The CTS Generation Next has already been planning for their next event, a mission to Israel at the end of November, where participants will tour the Technion, and get an inside look at Israel’s high-tech sector.

“We cannot keep relying on the old generation,” said Recht. “They’re very, very important, but they’ve told us as well, go out and get new people and that’s what were doing.”

From right: CTS national development director Hershel Recht and wife Robin.

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