These young Emirati innovators can make your gloves talk

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More than 1,700 students got together at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) hosted in Pittsburgh, USA.

By Muaz Shabandri/staff Reporter (Reporting from Pittsburgh, USA)

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Published: Wed 20 May 2015, 1:07 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Feb 2023, 3:36 PM

Flying high ... Girl participants from the UAE at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, USA. — Supplied photos

Imagine solving real-life challenges with the power of science and everyday objects. Tinkering with wires, code and complex equations to become the next big name in the world of science, more than 1,700 students got together at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) hosted in Pittsburgh, USA.

From helping fight new-age diseases to finding a solution for complex environmental challenges, ISEF is a global competition uniting the brightest kids with the best ideas. Billed as the world’s largest high school science research competition, a group of Emirati students also made an appearance at this year’s show with the support of Emirates Foundation and Intel.

Raymond Wang, a 17-year-old student from Canada won the top prize at this year’s ISEF for his science project on improving air quality in airplane cabins. Wang’s system improves the availability of fresh air in the cabin by more than 190 per cent while reducing pathogen inhalation concentrations by up to 55 times compared to conventional designs, and can be easily and economically incorporated in existing airplanes.

“We’re inspired by these young innovators and problem solvers who are using science and technology to tackle our toughest global challenges and create a brighter future,” said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation.

Other winning inventions at the Intel ISEF included an easy-to-use testing device to combat the high rate of undiagnosed HIV infection in low-income communities.

Finalists’ projects tackle topics ranging from wearable technology to big data analytics to renewable energy. Each year, new ideas showcasing cutting-edge research compete for approximately $4 million in awards.

“Intel believes young people are key to future innovation and that in order to confront the global challenges of tomorrow, we need students from all backgrounds to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math,” she added.

Sharing his experience, Obaid bin Safwan, a finalist from the UAE said: “We finished our project with a greater understanding that most of the problems in the world can be solved. Usually the solution exists, but somehow we don’t see it until the problem is fully investigated.”

Another student, Ali Bastaki said: “I’ve met a lot of people from all around the world here at the science fair and it is exciting to meet like-minded students. When I first came here, I was surprised to see the scale of the event – it was simply huge.”

The UAE projects were selected from Emirates Foundation’s Think Science programme which is a national level science fair attracting thousands of school and university students to showcase their innovations in the field of science and technology.

What the UAE students presented

Project 1

Morse Glasses for ALS Patients

Abdulla Alali and Mohammed Ahmed Alshehhi

From Abu Dhabi’s Applied Technology High School, Abdulla Alali and Mohammed Ahmed Alshehhi, designed a wearable device to communicate with eye gestures. Drawing inspiration from the viral ice-bucket challenge, the duo combined regular eye glasses with Bluetooth technology and special sensors to map eye movements. Using eye movements, an ALS patient can control the lights in a room, ask assistance and even greet people.

“Our initial idea was to make glasses that would help blind people walk using ultrasonic sensors. After that we came across the ice-bucket challenge and started researching about ALS. This prompted us to look for a low-cost solution which would combine glasses and eye moment with communication technology to help ALS patients communicate,” said Mohammed Ahmed.

Project 2

Road Accidents Alert System

A road accident changed the life of three friends forever. Rashid Jasem Alhammadi, Ali Abdullah Albastaki and Humaid Mohammed Alhammadi from Applied Technology High School remembered the death of their friend in a road accident.

“Our friend met with a road accident while coming back from university at night in October last year. For a very long time, no one attended to him because the accident took place in a remote area. His death prompted us to build this device which could have avoided the delayed response,” said Rashid Jasim.

Creating a device to alert paramedics immediately after a car crash, the team combined sensors and mobile technology to send out an alert. A force sensor senses any impact and triggers a GSM controller to send an SMS to a pre-defined list with the car’s location.

Project 3

A Hint to a New Beginning

Ali Abdullah Albastaki, Rashid Jasem Alhammadi and Humaid Mohammed Alhammadi

Designing an inexpensive way to purify water using microbial fuel cells, Maryam Fuad Bukhash and Amna Mohammad Al Hashimi from Al Ittihad Private School in Jumeirah showcased their idea at Intel ISEF. Using a carbon cloth, wire strippers, magnet and graphite, the duo created an electrode and fuel cell to prove their hypothesis.

“Since microbial fuel cells mimic bacterial infections found in nature, waste water containing many micro-organisms will conduct much more electrical current,” said Amna.

The team started work on their project in October last year and hopes developing countries can benefit from their invention.

“My happiest memory was when we got the results of our experiments and we saw the highest wattage on the microbial fuel cells we had been working on,” said Maryam.

Project 4

Anti-Alcohol Car

Almost 30 per cent of road accidents worldwide are caused by intoxicated drivers. Alia Arif Alharmi and Shouq Abdulaziz Altawash from National School Al Barsha wanted to reduce instances of drunk driving and they stumbled upon the idea of using inexpensive gas sensors. Measuring ethanol levels inside a car cabin, the sensor would automatically cut off gas supply and halt the car, notifying a family member with the precise GPS location of the car to request a pick-up.

“Existing breath tests are deployed only after noticing reckless driving or a car accident. Using our system, motorists will have to breathe into a sensor before driving the car — ensuring the driver isn’t in an intoxicated state. If a driver is intoxicated, the car automatically shuts off, preventing the driver from risking his life and the life of other motorists,” said Alia.

Project 5

The Smart Glove

The smart glove which will help the deaf and mute communicate.

Khalid Ahmed Alkhyeli and Obaid Abdulazeez bin Safwan from Applied Technology High School in Abu Dhabi had science fair visitors in sheer awe. Wearing a glove connected to flex sensors, the team hopes to one day help deaf and mute people communicate using hand gestures which are converted to spoken words.

“We want to make the whole system wireless and easy to use at a later stage. Programing the flex sensors and using electronic controllers was a big learning experience for both of us,” said Obaid Abdulazeez.

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