Expect more Emirati women in engineering, young UAE inventor says

Reem Al Marzouqi says women are forging careers in the male-dominated engineering sector.

Inspired by a video of a pilot without arms in the US airforce who could not drive, Reem Al Marzouqi decided to invent a car that would require only the use of feet and not hands. Lee Hoagland/The National
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ABU DHABI // Expect more women to break into engineering, says a female student whose design for a car to be driven by people with no arms has recently been patented in the US.

“I am proud because I did something with that usually you would expect men to do, working with engines and with cars, but now I have shown them that women do it just as well,” said Reem Al Marzouqi, 23, from Al Ain.

“I see many Emirati women now at my university. In some fields you find more men, electrical and petroleum engineering, for example, but in general girls are working hard and getting more and more experience.

“I can see from my colleagues they are working as hard as they can. I expect more and more women will enter this field, and they will become extremely important in the future. You can see the talent they have.

“Nowadays it is really needed, especially in the UAE because there are so many development projects.”

Sixty per cent of engineering students at UAE University in Al Ain, where Ms Al Marzouqi studies, are women.

“The students will not be joining us unless there are job opportunities out there, so it shows that the country has adopted female engineers,” said Dr Reyadh Almehaideb, deputy vice chancellor for research and graduate studies at UAEU.

“Emiratisation can never succeed unless we include women in the process. It is actually a reflection of the country’s support for education over a number of years.

“The leadership would like to see more of this happen, and more women involved.

“It is quite an accomplishment for a student to get a patent from the US. This doesn’t happen often. Students can achieve excellent outcomes if they focus on their work and follow it through and we support them.

“The whole university is very proud that we got the patent through.”

Ms Al Marzouqi took five years to design her car. Now, with a little help from her friends and colleagues at UAEU and the Technology Development Committee’s Takamul programme, her vehicle is a reality.

“I was shocked, I didn’t expect to get this far at all,” Ms Al Marzouqi said. “But I am happy and proud, and every time people ask me how I did it I just say ‘I don’t know, it just came to me.’

“You just need the energy and to believe in the project. I failed many times and a lot of people laughed at me when I was talking about it at the beginning.

“If you have an idea and you believe in it, just do it, go for it, even if you fail.”

She worked on her design and first prototype in her own time, three years before she took it to her colleagues at UAEU.

“People thought that I was either very smart or very rich, but no, I am not that smart and I worked to earn the money for this,” Ms Al Marzouqi said.

“I enjoy fashion designing and luckily I was able to earn some money that I put towards the project.”

But the real reasons for the design were far from materialist. Her device, which uses a system of three foot-controlled levers, could have real benefits for disabled people.

The inspiration for the project was Jessica Cox, a handicapped pilot from the US, who she contacted when she began working on the project.

“I was thinking only of the disabled people when I first thought of it,” Ms Al Marzouqi said. “I really wished I could make something and send it to Jessica for her to use. I first saw her on a TV show and the idea came to my mind.

“I emailed her and she said that her drivers’ licence was suspended. So I thought why not make something that could make her life easier.”

Unfortunately, Ms Al Marzouqi was told she could not export the car to the US yet, as it would not be legally permitted on the roads there.


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