Budding scientists and engineers build robots at Abu Dhabi workshop

Fatima al Harmoudi, 15, and Reem Abdullah, 17, navigate a drone while they work with other students as part of Tech Quest. Silvia Razgova / The National
Fatima al Harmoudi, 15, and Reem Abdullah, 17, navigate a drone while they work with other students as part of Tech Quest. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // To some people, the idea of programming wearable semiconductors might induce a puzzled look.

But to Sheikha Al Mejimi, 18, keying in data into a small electrical panel allowed her to create a dazzling party dress that could literally light up a room.

“It’s rainbow colour,” she said of the light-emitting diode lights that would be sewn on to a black dress in a zig-zag pattern to flicker on and off.

“It would be so fabulous to be in a dress that lights up.”

Taif Al Jeil, a fellow 12th-grade student with Sheikha at Al Manhal School, said: “Imagine going to a party and you’re like ‘look at me, I’m lighting up’.”

The duo were among 161 Emirati secondary-school students from Abu Dhabi and Al Ain to take part in the fifth annual Tech Quest.

The initiative, set up by Mubadala and Zayed Higher Organisation, offers Emirati pupils the chance to learn about science, technology, engineering and maths through practical workshops involving the latest technology.

The programme has been offered in various forms for 15 years.

About 500 pupils applied to take part in the nine-day workshop, in which they worked in groups to design and programme wearable semiconductors, build robotic rescue rovers, use a three-dimensional printer to produce medical devices, and construct a landing port for drones to deliver packages to homes and businesses.

“The students spend the first couple of days learning about these new topics and then they spend the rest of the programme in a studio-based environment,” said Hanan Harhara, Mubadala’s head of learning and development.

“We give them a challenge and they have to come up with solutions based on everything that they’ve learnt throughout the past few days.

“We are encouraging curiosity about science, technology, engineering and maths, and how relevant those subjects are to our daily lives and to the emerging industries in Abu Dhabi.

“We’re hoping that eventually this curiosity will help us develop the human capital of our future workforce.”

In the robotics workshops, pupils were challenged to build a small robotic emergency- response vehicle with light and camera sensors that could navigate through a small maze of ramps to find a plastic alien and pick it up with a front-end loader.

Abdullah Al Ameri, a 14-year-old ninth grader at Baniyas International Private School, said learning about robots was a new experience that taught him more about science and technology.

“I think this experience could help me in the future. I want to serve my country by doing technology and science.”

Mariam Al Shehhi, 13, said the scheme had fired her enthusiasm for the subjects. “I like that it introduced science and technology and mathematics in a fun way and we got to do something that we’ve never done before. It was educational, but fun at the same time,” said the ninth grader at Sheikh Zayed Private Academy.

“It was hands-on. We weren’t only sitting there and listening to everything the teacher was saying … we actually made the robot,” she said.

rpennington@thenational.ae

Published: December 30, 2014 04:00 AM

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