Barak’s dream of a firefighter robot lives on thanks to fundraising


At around 7 p.m. on Yom Kippur, 12-year-old Barak Houry was run over and killed by a drunk driver on Highway 4 in central Israel.

Using his own map to track his way, Barak cycled from the Houri family home in Ramat Gan to his friend in Petah Tikva, with whom he took swimming lessons six days a week. “He was so excited he didn’t even say goodbye when he left the house,” his mother Tzofit said.

After two hours, Tzofit received a call from the friend’s parents, informing her that Barak had never made it to their home in Petah Tikva. After a number of missed calls to his son, Tzofit called the Israel Police.

“The police knocked on my door and told me: ‘there was an accident, we are taking you to [Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus]”Tzofit recalls.” They showed me a picture of the bike and refused to give us any further information on the way. We felt such intense uncertainty. “

When the Houris arrived at Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus, medical staff told them their child had no pulse. “It was over after 15 minutes, more or less,” they said. “We were confused and disoriented at the time, but it was quickly over,” Tzofit added.

Barak Houri posing with his handcrafted guitar. (credit: courtesy)

Self-taught painter, carpenter, composer, couturier and tailor, Barak has not lost a single minute of his life. “He was constantly writing and sketching his thoughts in school, always thinking about the next project,” Tzofit said. “He managed to squeeze five minutes of work into one.”

“For Barak, a problem isn’t really a problem but an opportunity to fix something broken. He’s a kid who makes you want to wake up in the morning,” the parents said. “He gave us the motivation to dare, to be afraid of nothing.”

Parents spoke about Barak’s influence on those around him, before and after his death, from his teacher who wants to lecture at school on Barak to children’s publications who want to use Barak’s works to motivate and encourage creativity in children. “Musicians approached us with the intention of performing songs he wrote and conducting concerts in his memory,” they noted.

During the COVID-19 pandemic that kept students locked in their homes, Barak thrived. “While his classmates climbed the walls, he was busy writing songs on his piano and painting,” Tzofit said. “I can finally do the things that interest me, instead of going to school,” Barak told his mother.

It was then that Barak came up with the idea for a solar-powered robot, designed to identify, locate and extinguish fires, all without endangering human life.

Barak built his automated firefighter with no prior knowledge or experience in robotics or electronics, sitting in front of his computer for hours every day, learning to program codes and solder himself.

Despite Barak’s hard work throughout the year, his firefighting robot, equipped with object detectors, gas, heat and light sensors, a speaker and light bulbs which automatically light up in the dark, remains unfinished. “He built the robot so that he could serve the public and help people,” said his father, Isaac.

After his death, Tzofit and Isaac decided to make sure that Barak’s legacy was one of creativity, curiosity and ingenuity. A crowdfunding project, titled “Barak Houri’s Robot”, was launched with the aim of complementing Barak’s robot and making his dream come true.

Additionally, the Houris seek to inspire children and adolescents to learn and invest in robotics and programming through Barak’s robot. “A week before Barak passed away, he said he wanted to open a Facebook page, where kids who are interested in robotics can help him improve the robot,” Tzofit said. “If this was his last wish, we will realize his vision.”

“Electrical engineering students offered to complete Barak’s robot as a thesis,” they noted. “Large companies are also interested in participating in this project,” Tzofit added.

As of Thursday, more than 400,000 shekels had already been donated by Israelis and others around the world for the completion of the Barak project.

Eran Azoulay, the driver who killed Barak, has been convicted of impaired driving twice in the past. “We don’t want to comment on him … All we want is for him to get everything he deserves [in court], the family said.

In a message to parents around the world, Tzofit and Isaac urged them to enjoy every messy room in the house. “I was constantly complaining about the clutter Barak left behind because of all his designs and inventions,” Tzofit said. “You can’t complain … now the house is tidy but the silence is really deep.”

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