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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 16 August 2018

With this solar kit, science will become fun for school children

iSolarWorkx, a start-up in Dubai, will be launching the first solar DIY car kit in the region for children between 9 and 17 years of age to teach concepts of physics and promote the cause of renewable energy
Ali Abdel Hafiz demonstrates the car kit with solar panels to his son, Ziad, at the American University of Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National
Ali Abdel Hafiz demonstrates the car kit with solar panels to his son, Ziad, at the American University of Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National

Dubai-based entrepreneur Ali Abdel Hafiz has designed an educational do-it-yourself solar toy car kit that he hopes will encourage children to take to science.

Backed by In5 Hub in Dubai, Hafiz’s company, iSolarWorkx, has produced the kit to complement school curricula. Meant for children between the ages of 8 and 17, it introduces the concepts of physics with a focus on renewable energy. The product will be launched in October.

“There are a few reasons that drive the product design,” says Hafiz, an Egyptian who moved to the UAE three years ago to establish the start-up.

“I realised there are about 14 hours of sun in the region and no one is making use of it. Secondly, the educational system here is heavily reliant on textbooks, with not much practical work done. The idea was to combine science education with renewable energy to help pupils understand the subject through play.”

It was his experience in the energy sector in the United Kingdom that prompted him to launch the project. “I was working as an energy trading and risk-management consultant,” he says.

“That means I was dealing with gas, coal and CO2 – and so always had an eye on alternative sources of energy. When I left the UK, I knew I had to come up with something different to get the young generation interested in energy and science.”

The kit

Each kit consists of a mini chassis, wheels, two shafts and gears, motor, solar pole, panels and panel holder and weighs only 350 grams.

“I made the car completely screwless. We added several gears to simulate gears in bicycles. The smaller gear is fast but weak and the bigger one is slow and strong. It will teach various concepts such as torque.”

The car runs on multiple solar panels and has a rotating panel case.

“Children will learn basic concepts about using solar energy – how the size of a solar panel affects the amount of sunlight captured, in relation to the speed of the car,” explains Hafiz.

Learning tool

The kit slots nicely into the scheme of pushing for that shift in mindset in schools: the principles that need to be applied to assemble the car are synched to topics in the British, American and International Baccalaureate curricula. ISolarWorkx has also developed instructions and modules in English and Arabic.

The company has already received orders for the sets from UAE schools, the Technology Development Committee in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Science Museum and the environment company Bee’ah in Sharjah. The founders are in talks with the Ministry of Education to draw up a pilot project for public schools in the UAE.

“We want to present to parents and teachers a line of renewable-energy educational products that can help children enjoy science through hands-on activities,” says Hafiz.

The company will also be designing other such DIY kits to introduce different science topics.

A love for science

He says that getting children excited at this age will encourage them to study science at university level. The founders are also looking to create a community of educators and students online through their website, which will enable students to ask questions, start discussions and upload their experiments.

“This way, they can express themselves, ask questions related to renewable energy and find a reliable resource to learn about its benefits,” says Hafiz. “They will also be motivated to come up with their own projects to solve issues in their communities.”​

• The DIY kits are available for educational institutions to order and will be released for consumers this year for about Dh300. For more information, visit www.isolarworkx.com

aahmed@thenational.ae

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