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Hebrew U project honours Einstein theory milestone

South African students took part in the Space 4 The Next Einstein competition

As the centennial of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity approached in 2015, the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University of Jerusalem (CFHU), which proudly lists Einstein as one of the school’s founders, worked to promote his legacy to help propel the organization beyond its Canadian borders.

CFHU president and CEO Rami Kleinmann said that when Einstein died in 1955, he left his estate and intellectual legacy to the university, and the decision to use Einstein’s legacy to inspire people on a global level was like unwrapping a forgotten gift.

“We realized that… we have one of the treasures of humanity, and we felt that this gift was never unwrapped… that became almost like a time capsule,” Kleinmann said.

To that end, a number of initiatives were launched through the Albert Einstein Legacy Project to celebrate the centennial milestone and to facilitate international projects to inspire the next generation and give a voice to the geniuses of tomorrow.

One of the events is the Einstein Gala, which will feature keynote speaker Uri Levine, the co-founder of Waze, and will be held May 24 at the Park Hyatt Toronto.

Later this year, on Sept. 10, the Dinner of the Century will be held at the Arsenal in Montreal to celebrate the launch of the first-ever 3D-printed book called Genius: 100 Visions of the Future.

The book, designed by renowned Israeli designer Ron Arad, will feature 100 of the world’s icons and visionaries, including Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and environmental activist David Suzuki. The book, spearheaded by CFHU, is designed so that the two-dimensional pages will form a three-dimensional bust of Einstein.

But it’s the potential of “The Next Einstein” project that has Kleinmann and Elan Divon, CFHU’s vice-president of development, most excited. Through this program – which launched in North America in 2013 –people age 13 and older are given an opportunity to develop and share a “big idea.” The winner, chosen by a panel of international judges, receives bursaries, scholarships and support to bring their ideas to fruition.

Past winners include 13-year-old Marin Schultz of Alberta, who created an inexpensive 3D-printed prosthetic hand, and 70-year-old Charles Rose from London, Ont., who developed a method to genetically modify dragonflies to reduce the harmful effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The fourth annual Next Einstein competition begins March 28 at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. As part of the launch, there will be an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as Einstein.

“When we launched the first contest for the Next Einstein… we thought how can we go beyond our traditional circle of support and try to use technology in order to be out there and introduce us to new people?” Kleinmann said.

Earlier this year, the first Space 4 The Next Einstein competition launched in partnership with the European Space Agency in South Africa’s rural Mpumalanga region. About 10,000 students in grades 5 to 7 from 19 schools are competing for the title. The winner will be announced next month.

Divon said the  project’s success comes from combining technology and purpose.

“We’re not a non-profit. We’re a for-purpose organization. Our purpose is looking at the assets that we have, looking at what’s unique about Hebrew University, and we realized, here we have this treasure of an icon, an international treasure, who is a light to the world,” Divon said.

“Once we launched it and we saw what came at the end of it – which was that 37 different countries participated in it, that [the event] was shared with 42 million people through Facebook and we saw that we were getting sponsorship support from companies and corporations that never before had a reason to support us – we saw that we had something really, really big here,” Kleinmann added.

He said many people around the world are limited academically by their environments, but through this initiative, they hope to teach students to “think freely, not to get trapped in fear, or in models that are limiting them, and really push for the stars.”

“We’re coming to them, to the bush in Africa, and we’re saying to them that we believe that you guys have something to offer,” Divon said. “We believe you have value, we believe you have potential. Share with us your potential.” n

For more about CFHU’s upcoming events, visit www.alberteinsteinfoundation.com.