Eight unique designs for the future on display at the Global Grad Show

This year's exhibition features biodegradable raincoats and apps designed to make women feel safer on the streets of Egypt

The Global Grad Show, a lynchpin of Dubai Design Week, offers intriguing insights into how the designers of the future are addressing the most pressing problems of our time, featuring 150 projects by students from around the world in an online showcase.

From biodegradable raincoats made of corn husk waste to apps designed so women can feel safer on the streets of Egypt, this year’s projects focus on a range of social, environmental and health-related challenges. As part of this, on show from Monday in the Dubai Design District, is the Mena Grad Show, with 60 projects on display in person.

“What we see at Global Grad Show is that talent is uniformly distributed around the world,” says Tadeu Baldani, the event’s director. “We have the privilege of engaging with thousands of young minds every year, and we know that their drive, intellect and creativity are an incredible combination for creating good. What we do at Global Grad Show is to nurture their vision, so that they can get closer to bringing solutions to life.”

This year’s event highlights some of the demands of a post-pandemic era, including health tech solutions, with a focus on mental health, more sustainable food practices, smarter homes and solutions to improve personal well-being and safety.

Here, we take a look at some of the most interesting ideas on display from the Mena recruit.


A concept by Mazyar Etehadi, from the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, A’seedbot is an autonomous robot designed to cultivate vegetation in desert environments.

The device, which looks like an oversized but endearing futuristic desert-dwelling insect, recharges itself during the day using solar energy and then gets to work at night planting seeds.

The bot was developed by studying autonomous vehicles, as well as new technologies applied to seeding and cultivating in the desert. An advance navigation system and sensors ensure it will be able to avoid any potential hazards while planting in preset areas.

Expert: Filling in the Gaps

Recognising that expats can sometimes experience culture shock when moving to a new country, Mai El Gammal of the German University in Cairo has designed an app that supplies targeted information to people trying to settle in an unfamiliar place.

Data was collected using surveys and market research to determine the most pertinent information to include on the app. This includes details on medical, government and home services, as well as employment websites, entertainment and shopping facilities and educational institutions. The app also includes key phrases to help its users communicate in their new home.

Al Selah

Dina Banat at the Abu Dhabi University proposes that the UAE capital would benefit from more public and green spaces as it continues to be urbanised.

Her Al Selah project would be located in the Mangrove National Park, and would act as a nature-filled ecosystem that breaks down barriers between urban and natural environments, with a particular emphasis on the mangrove tree.

A vertical concentration of green spaces set across different levels, Al Selah would feature skywalks and sky gardens. The design is inspired by the structure of the trees themselves, with a central trunk, roots that extend into the water, and levels that protrude outwards like leaves.


This product addresses the issue of organic waste by allowing its users to compost their leftovers in the comfort of their own kitchens. This compost is then used to nourish and grow plants placed on the top of the compost pot. The bottom part consists of a clay container, where organic waste can be stored.

Humidity and oxygen sensors monitor the state of the compost as it is being broken down, with the results displayed on an LCD screen. A mixing blade at the bottom of the container rotates the compost. The top part features pipes that can be used to transfer the compost and water plants once they have begun to germinate.

It’s the brainchild of Dalilah Mansoor, Sana Mohamed and Kaya Tueni at the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation.


Also designed to address the issue of waste is Hydria, a domestic water recycling unit that allows water used for everyday kitchen-related activities to be recycled and repurposed.

Whether you are straining pasta, washing produce or soaking foodstuffs, the water can be purified using a three-stage filtration system featuring natural elements such as gravel, sand and activated charcoal. The water can then be used for other chores, whether watering plants, mopping or ironing.

“It provides us with the tools to develop a more symbiotic relationship with water,” say its creators, Nikhilesh Mohan and Alhaan Ahmed, at the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation.

Step Up Society

Sexual harassment is a recurring issue in Allaa Elhamady’s native Egypt, which is why the graduate of the German University in Cairo has created the Step Up Society app.

Users can pin locations where they have had negative experiences, which are classified into the categories of sexual harassment, verbal harassment, cat-calling, being followed, indecent exposure and sexual gestures. They can upload pictures of the perpetrators, to be used as evidence, if required.

The app also encourages survivors to share their stories anonymously to try to overcome their experiences. Users can create an “emergency squad”, with trusted contacts who would be notified of their location in case of an emergency.

“Also, the application is really useful for travellers, especially women, as they navigate new areas in the country,” says Elhamady. “That’s why the map is colour coded, with shades of red (high-risk areas) and blue (safe areas).”


This is an educational board game that teaches people American Sign Language. Designed to enhance communication between hearing and non-hearing people, HiSign is inspired by the game of charades.

It features four different types of cards, each representing specific places and areas of interest. Players are divided into two teams and must sign the words and phrases on the cards to move along the board.


Lama Adham’s Waft is a collection of products designed to protect users from air pollution. The Waft kit features four products: a pouch, mask, sanitising spray and sensor.

The sensor is an MQ7 pollution detector, and is paired with LED lights that change to red when it detects high levels of pollution and green when the threat has passed. These items are paired with a dedicated app that tracks pollution levels and the user’s rates of exposure.

It uses simple colour coded technology and an alert system to keep users informed about the air quality around them. The mask is made from natural materials such as organic poplin and organic nano-fibres that filter the air.

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Dubai Design Week 2021: must-see exhibitions, pop-ups and installations

Updated: November 11th 2021, 10:13 AM