Students from Ajman University won first prize at the national stage for this year’s James Dyson Award, by creating an app to protect children from abuse.
It uses Bluetooth and GPS technology to send the alert and location of the child to the mobile phone of a parent, as well as simultaneously sending a picture of the attacker.
“We all firmly believe in using our education to make a real difference in the lives of others,” said Shamma Alaryani, 23, one of the inventors.
“When we were looking for impactful ideas, we couldn’t help but notice the amount of news related to child abuse and kept thinking, 'what if this was a relative?'
“The idea of protecting the ones I love motivated me to push past taboos and design a solution that safeguards children and makes them feel comfortable to talk about it [abuse].”
His teammate Marwa Alshouli, 21, said working on the project has helped her to fine tune her critical thinking skills.
“Engineering often involves looking into a problem and finding a practical solution. We had several challenges during the development of Shield, but we learnt a lot about problem solving,” she said.
“It has also been a trying process to realise how many prototypes you need to create before you’re able to get a working solution.”
Around the world, there are an estimated 120 million girls under the age of 20 who have suffered some form of forced sexual contact, according to Unicef.
The World Health Organisation estimates there are up to one billion children worldwide, from the ages of 2 to 17, who have suffered some form of physical, emotional or sexual violence in the past 12 months.
The prize for winning the nationwide competition is a Dh10,000 grant for the students to further develop their invention.
“We began working on the system in September 2020 and spent an average of five hours a day researching and prototyping, as we progressively improved the design and weight with each version,” said student Somaya Samra, 21.
“Soon we hope to implement AI and deep learning into the software, which will increase accuracy and responsiveness.”
The group from Ajman will now go on to compete in the international stage of the James Dyson Award on October 13.
They will represent the UAE with runners-up from the American University of Sharjah, who created drone technology to help prevent damage to plants, and crop waste.
The country will also be represented by a team from the University of Sharjah, who invented technology to help desalinate water using sunlight and ultrasonic waves.
“The winning team demonstrated impressive creativity and dedication in the way they approached and designed a solution to a prevalent problem,” said Dr Suaad Al Shamsi, one of the judges for the competition in the UAE.
“The invention uses existing technology to detect and deter abuse while also providing an opportunity for a quick response from caregivers when required.
“It delivers an effective tool for parents across the globe looking to better protect their children and ensure their safety, well-being and happiness.”