The Sunday before last, Dubai witnessed the launch of the biggest national science innovation fair for youth in UAE.
The "Think Science" fair, one of Emirates Foundation’s (EF) youth programs, gathered over 420 innovative young scientists between the ages of 15 and 24 from schools and universities all over the UAE, who presented over 150 projects over 3 days from April 21-23 at the Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC).
The projects addressed social challenges in the Emirati community, including energy, environment, applied physics, engineering, water management, and more; all were innovative, but what was most impressive was the students’ enthusiasm and confidence in presenting their ideas.
One project focused on how to extract sustainable solar energy using mirrors, by reflecting sun rays onto a small round set of mirrors that could focus the sunlight on an iron tank. Once the sunlight heated the tank, the steam can be used to run turbines and generate electricity; the projects's prototype demonstrated the process. Another project focused on recycling sewage water and using the energy produced to generate power.
“Think Science” is not the first scientific program by Emirates
Foundation, but it's the first with a national focus, said CEO
Clare Woodcraft. "We are trying to help young people across
UAE understand the opportunity of studying science and having a
career in science and technology."
The goal is also to develop new connections. "We are creating a bridge between local Emirati talent in this sector, and [private sector] companies that are looking to source that talent,” she added.
Talking to the students, it was clear that they were thrilled with the competition, and the opportunity to present their ideas and interact with private sector and professionals. It was a revelation for Ibrahim Mohamed, an 18-year-old student from Al-Dahma’a school in Al Ain who worked on the mirror-based solar energy project. “Previously, if we had an idea or a project, we didn’t think of getting it out there," he explained. "But with such an exhibition, scientists find their way to the world. I now feel that if I have an idea, I can apply it!”
Private sector companies present included Shell, Blackberry,
Dubai Media Inc., and Al Ahli Holding Group, all of which engaged
the students in interactive education activities. “It’s
phenomenal to see so many students participating," said Karina
O’Gorman, Corporate Citizenship Manager at Blackberry. "Our
worry is that if we don’t encourage students to study science in
school, we won't see a future interest in science and
technology. That’s why we support events like this!”
The judging results will not be announced until June, however, participants did not walk out of the fair empty-handed. Dr. Hussein assured that the judging process was not just about evaluation, it was about feedback and providing advice and constructive comments to the students, to encourage them to keep moving and scale up their projects.
The future of economic growth in UAE is very dependendent upon the industrial sector, especially the oil and gas, aerospace, and technology sectors, pointed out EF's Claire Woodcraft. Sustaining growth in the country will necessitate young talented Emiratis working in these areas, who are working to "think science."