Bringing the T and the E Back to STEM Education: What Intelitek is Doing for Technological Literacy (Q&A)
“In a few years from now, technology is going to be just like English classes.” At least, that’s what Ido Yerushalmi, CEO of Intelitek hopes for. Founded over 30 years ago, Intelitek has striven to provide what Yerushalmi calls a “technological literacy” in subjects such as automation, robotics, and machine process control.
Currently, they operate in over 50 countries, working in primarily community colleges and high schools. Recently, however, there has been a push toward middle schools and higher elementary, where Yerushalmi and Intelitek want to change the way children approach robotics.
“We want to make it something everybody has access to,” said Yerushalmi.
Intelitek doesn’t plan on stopping there, however. Yerushalmi also shared the launch of a new online platform that teaches how to code real and virtual robots.
“In STEM, there are two letters which are neglected,” the CEO said in closing. “We’re bringing T and E to everybody.”
Listen to the full interview with Ido Yerushalmi:
EdTech Times: Hi, this is Hannah Nyren with EdTech Times, and today I am interviewing Ido Yerushalmi from Intelitek. So, hi Ido, how’s it going?
Yerushalmi: Hi, how are you?
EdTech Times: Good! So, tell me a little bit about how Intelitek began, why it was created? What problem is it trying to solve?
Yerushalmi: So, Intelitek is one of the veteran companies in the edtech market. We’ve existed for over 30 years, and we solve workforce development issues. We provide technical and technological literacy to students throughout the world, predominantly in the U.S., but also globally. We work a lot with community colleges, high schools, and in recent years, we are start[ing] to see a very strong pull into middle schools and higher elementary, where technological literacy is becoming a major issue and we are here to address it.
EdTech Times: Cool. So, how would you describe your [company] in one sentence?
Yerushalmi: We are a very hands-on learning type of company, so whatever we provide to the market is really an integral type of experience that combines curriculum, some sort of simulation software, and finally some sort of lab or kit that the student can actually learn the skills, but also implement them on something which is kind of a real-life problem.
EdTech Times: And what subjects do you cover?
Yerushalmi: So, on the more vocational side, we cover subjects such as automation, robotics, machine process control, anything that will get people jobs in the industry. And in schools we deal with coding, we deal with robotics, we deal with 3-D design, all of the skills that are part of what we call “technological literacy.”
EdTech Times: So it sounds like a lot of vocational-related education, but what age groups are you working with usually?
Yerushalmi: So vocational is a tricky work because it used to be—
EdTech Times: Connotations.
Yerushalmi: It used to be that everything that was vocational was kind of set aside as “okay you’re vocational, you’re going into an industry or you’re doing something which is different than regular education,” but today there is a convergence, to a certain extent because if you’re going to middle school, it used to be an elective that you could choose to do some form of technological training. And now more and more middle schools are getting the demand from parents and from industry “Hey, we want the kids to start, you know, touching code, we want the kids to understand how machines work, we want the kids to understand how to talk to machines.”
This is making something that is a wider part of education, and we feel that, you know, in a few years from now, technology is going to be just like English classes. You’re going to have your regular technology classes, and in each one of them you’re going to learn different aspects and how that builds your skill level, and you know some of the people, or some of the students are going to use this for their day-to-day life, and others are going to excel in it and work in pathways and go and get engineering degrees.
But schools today you know, if you talk about robotics for example, it’s like the comparable of a varsity team, you have to be one of the twenty in order to be in the robotics team. But we want to make it like a P.E. class, we want to make it something everybody has access to.
EdTech Times: Cool, so this is for everyone. And middle school students.
Yerushalmi: And most importantly, girls.
EdTech Times: Yes! Because they think they can’t do it, and no one’s encouraging them to do it, so they need as much as they can get.
Yerushalmi: Absolutely. We want more girls, we want more diverse audiences that touch upon STEM. And when we say STEM it’s not necessarily just the science and the math, but also the technology and the engineering.
EdTech Times: So, what countries is your product being used in so far? I know you’re based in…Where are you based?
Yerushalmi: We’re based in Israel and here in the Boston area. We have offices just north of the border of New Hampshire.
EdTech Times: Yeah, [Boston]’s a great place for edtech! Not to be biased, but…
Yerushalmi: Absolutely. So, we sell in over fifty countries.
EdTech Times: Great. So what progress have you seen so far? How many years has it been?
Yerushalmi: Over thirty.
EdTech Times: Over 30, right. So you’ve definitely had to have seen some progress, and how has the product evolved over those 30 years? And how has the audience changed? How has the community that you’re serving grown or changed in that time?
Yerushalmi: So, we are constantly working to make sure that our product serves its objective, which is to enable students to either get technological skills, or to be prepared for the workforce. And we see that when we do events such as competitions, and we see industries coming and hiring students that use our products and take them to jobs. That means that we are doing the right thing. I think that the challenge today is really, as technology is becoming more dominant in the day-to-day and in the, I’d say in the agenda of education to make it more accessible. To make it something that more teachers would feel comfortable teaching, so we’re working a lot on lowering costs, on making it accessible in the sense that anybody can work on the learning at any time and at any place. And also to make it something that is very easy for professional development type of events, and online P.E.
EdTech Times: Cool. So what’s next? What’re guys working on next? In the next twelve months, in the next few months…what’s in the pipeline?
Yerushalmi: So we actually came here to, you know, share the launch of a very cool new product we have been working on for the past year.
EdTech Times: How cool?
Yerushalmi: Extremely cool!
EdTech Times: What makes it cool?
Yerushalmi: So this is an online platform that teaches how to code real and virtual robots, and we presented it in front of the crowd that was here today.
EdTech Times: Coding robots is always cool. What kind of robots?
Yerushalmi: Robots is really kind of a code name for anything that is, I guess, automated? So, you know, if you know how to code a robot, you know how to do a project in your own home and make it a smart home. Or, try to make or understand how an autonomous car works. Or, do a project that you can have your own hydroponic garden and code it in a way that you know exactly when you need to feed the plants and how to control the temperature in a room.
It’s all about understanding the process of automation, and we provide it in a way that, first of all, all you need in order to study is a browser. So you need a computer and a browser, and it’s low-floor high-ceiling, so you start with the basics of blocks then move onto real coding language like Java or C++, and you constantly see simulation using a unity 3-D engine that gives you that necessary feedback to see if you’re on track and if you understand what you’re learning. Everything is accompanied by curriculum starting at middle school and going all the way to high school. And my packages that assist teachers to do professional development.
EdTech Times: How do you think Intelitek can change the face of education? What is it that you’re doing that you think could impact education as a whole?
Yerushalmi: We have been working on bringing STEM to schools for many years, and in STEM—
EdTech Times: Even before it was trendy?
Yerushalmi: Even before it was trendy, exactly. And in STEM, there are two letters which are neglected, and those are the T and the E.
EdTech Times: That’s what I’ve heard. I hear people say the same things all the time, and I’m like, “How have we not changed this yet if everybody knows?”
Yerushalmi: So our message is that we’re bringing T and E to everybody. That’s what we’re doing.
EdTech Times: Bringing the T and E, I like it! That’s cool. Well, how many people are using the product now?
Yerushalmi: We just launched two months ago, so we’ve signed our first clients now. So we are reaching a thousand users, and are growing daily.
EdTech Times: So tomorrow, the world.
EdTech Times: Alright, well it was great speaking with you, Ido, have a safe trip!
Yerushalmi: Thank you very much!
Want to learn more? Check out Intelitek’s new product, CoderZ™, a learning environment for coding and robotics.
Jocelyn is a freelance writer originally from sunny South Florida, where she was the Managing Editor of Axis Creative Arts Magazine and a Senior Academic Mentor at United Mentors. She is currently a student at Emerson College, where she spends her time refining her writing skills when she isn’t preparing for the famous New England winters.