Inspiring Young Innovation


The region’s biggest student science exhibition opened in Dubai today to showcase innovations designed and created by the UAE’s top science students.

Hosted by the Emirates Foundation, Think Science aims to inspire students to engage with technology and then help them connect with industry.

There are 160 projects on display here, representing the work of 400 students, which shows there’s hope yet, for the next generation of young scientists, according to Clare Woodcraft-Scott, CEO of the Emirates Foundation.

“A lot of young people are getting a bit disillusioned with the concept of science and technology,” she says.

“It’s not an easy subject and we see a reduction in the number of young people choosing this as either a subject or a future career,” says Woodcraft-Scott. “We feel that’s a real shame because the UAE’s future growth is going to depend on science and technology talent.”

Mariem el Moctar, Al Qadisyah School

Mariem el Moctar, Al Qadisyah School

There’s no mistaking how just much talent was on display at the Dubai World Trade Center today though.

Mariem el Moctar from Al Qadisyah School is demonstrating how to collect electricity from wasted heat.

“Everyone knows that in the UAE the weather is so hot and in every building there is A/C so using the wasted heat that A/C produces, to produce electricity,” explains Mariem.

Gerard Ezcurra, Director of International Business at Vernier Software & Technology also sees an opportunity to harness this energy, to convert bright young scientific minds into the UAE’s technological workforce of the future.

“We live in such a scientific world and science is losing its joy amongst the children so we’re very excited when we can come over here and give them some extra tools, some extra way to build their excitement,” says Ezcurra.

Thousands of scientists are needed to fill positions in the UAE workplace, especially the private sector, with priority areas including nuclear engineering, aeronautical engineering, energy and IT.

Sami Issa is the  Executive Director of the Advanced Technologies Investment Corporation (ATIC). He says events like this are crucial to attracting home-grown talent.

“ATIC is highly interested, as is Mubadala, in developing the science and technology generation and we invest heavily in programs to promote science to educate Emiratis and move them towards more science and technology,” says Issa.

To encourage them to pursue work at the forefront of innovation, they need to be able access the very latest technologies.

Amal Al Masri, Al Shohub School

Amal Al Masri, Al Shohub School

“The science that you and I learned a long long time ago, computers, technology has progressed so far, our students are so much more sophisticated, we want to give them the same level of sophistication,” said Ezcurra.

Another practical application of chemistry is demonstrated by Amal Al Masri from the Al Shohub School.

She says her model of a basic hydrogen fuel cell relies on artificial photosynthesis to extract the hydrogen from water.

Oxygen isn’t the only by-product from the process – students are finding they’re getting hooked on science, without even knowing it.

“Because they’ll get engaged with the subject as well as the project and work very hard for it and represent the chemistry or the project and the rest. I think this program is the best,” said Amal.

And that engagement is precisely what today is all about.

Once they’re hooked, the challenge is keeping them there – which the Foundation has covered as well.

“Emirates Foundation is really a one-stop-shop for young people so we keep those people engaged in our database, they will be engaged some of them as ambassadors, says Woodcraft-Scott.

“Equally the companies are going to be reaching out to them so the companies here are not just interested in showcasing their employee proposition but they’re also interested in Emirati talent.”

A panel of 42 scientific experts from universities and corporate entities will review and evaluate the 160 projects to determine the winners, which will be announced in June.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 21 April 2013

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