April 11, 2014

Israel – UCLA, Technion, Argo, Cybathlon

Written by derekherrera

Carlton Hotel View Tel Aviv Israel HDR @2x

The past week has been incredible. I have and the opportunity to travel to Israel with classmates from UCLA and participate in an international studies course. We spent the week traveling around the country visiting businesses of different sizes and from different sectors throughout the country. Some of my favorite visits were to places like Genome Compiler, a company that has created the only software platform to program and synthesize DNA, and Given Imaging, a company that has created a camera that is the size of a pill you can swallow instead of having to have a colonoscopy. The technology was truly impressive, but even more interesting to me was the entrepreneurial spirit with which these companies were infected with.

We also got to spend time enjoying the rich history and culture of the country and visited Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea and Nazareth. It was a busy week but was incredibly enjoyable.

The day I spent in Jerusalem I was able to attend the Bar Mitzvah Dinner Party of Sam Kritzer. Sam is the young man who led and organized the incredibly successful fundraiser, Operation Rock the Warrior, about a month ago in LA. I have never been a part of any Bar Mitzvah celebrations before but it was a very special evening and I was incredibly impressed with how mature young teenagers can be. It seems like too often older generations like to give kids a hard time and question whether our future is safe in their hands, but kids like Sam give me tremendous hope for the future.

First Argo ReWalk prototype @2xI spent my last two days in Israel visiting the Technion University (Israeli Institute of Technology) where I was able to meet with some of the professors and research teams there. I was first introduced to the Technion when I found out that the inventor of the ReWalk was a graduate of this institution. I had a great visit and was able to meet with researchers who were studying things like advanced applications of high strength materials and bipedal locomotion.  Read more about my visit and the Technion on the Times of Israel blog.  Special thanks to Diana Stein Judovits of the American Technion Society for making the trip successful.

Yesterday I was able to visit the Argo Medical Technologies Headquarters in Yokneam, Israel. It was an incredible day, and I met with the research and development team, Dr. Amit Goffer (the founder), and all of the other incredible employees on the Argo team. I was able to test out the latest version of the ReWalk, which had some critical new upgrades that allowed me to walk farther and more efficiently than I ever have with the device before. Seeing the continued effort of the whole team to improve the device was truly inspiring for me, because these small tweaks made an exponential difference for me in the device. I was comfortable enough to negotiate obstacles like carpet and elevators (which you can see in the video below). By no means am I an expert yet, but it was significant progress.

While visiting with the Argo team I also learned about the first Cybathlon that will occur in 2016.  I don’t know if I will compete but I think this is the way of the future.  Singularity is much closer than most people think…