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The ORT Israel educational network recently won an international tender issued by the European Union for nanotechnology outreach and teaching for middle school and high school students and young adults. The project will run at about 400 schools and information centers in 20 European countries, for a target population of about 30,000 students. The project is worth an estimated 1.5 million euros, making it one of the largest "educational export" deals of recent years.

Nanotechnology, one of the most advanced areas of science, deals with a variety of research issues that have in common nanometric dimensions (measured in one billionth of a meter) - that is, a few atoms or molecules. The developing field incorporates aspects of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and a large number of research and industrial applications. In Israel, as in the EU, the subject is hardly taught at high school level.

ORT Israel director general Zvi Peleg said, "This is a tremendous breakthrough in for technology education exports. This is the first time we are proving to the world that we are leaders in technological education for youth."

The aim of the NANOYOU project, as published in the EU tender, is "promoting dialogue that will raise participants' awareness of ethical, legal and societal aspects" of nanotechnology. The target population is students aged 11 to 18 and young adults of up to 25, who will learn about the field by means of visits to information centers and museums. The project will include the development of study materials about nanotechnology appropriate to the various age groups, and the training of teachers in the schools, along with science exhibitions, workshops, computer games and Internet sites, including a virtual exhibition about the subject.

Also participating in the ORT Israel bid, which won the contract, is Britain's Cambridge University, which will be responsible for evaluating the project, as well as other organizations from France, Belgium, Denmark, Austria and Spain.

The project will be implemented largely by means of an international network of schools, each of which will receive teacher-trainers and study materials. Teachers from the educational institutions that join the process will be invited to meetings in the various countries or in Brussels.

According to Dr. Eli Eisenberg, the head of research and development and training at ORT Israel, the grade given to the Israeli proposal was nearly the highest possible: 14.7 out of 15 points. In the ORT schools the subject is covered in biotechnology classes.

"Nanotechnology education is taking its first steps, in Europe and in Israel," explains Dr. Eisenberg. "Our schools in Israel will benefit from the study materials we will develop under the contract."

Peleg noted that ORT Israel overcame competition from many organizations worldwide to win the EU tender. "The prestige is entailed not only in the fact of winning the tender, but also in the fact that an organization like ORT Israel will lead technological education in all of Europe," says the network's general director. "All the study materials will be under the name ORT. We have advanced knowledge at an international level in all aspects of technological education. Now it is possible to start planning 1how to export it to the whole world."