x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Pupils' water idea wins science challenge

Three Emirati friends win visit to London to compete in international science challenge.

ABU DHABI // While looking through the misty windows of his father's car on a humid day, Ahmed Obaid came up with what he hopes will be a low-cost solution to the UAE’s water shortage problems.

The Grade 7 pupil, along with classmates Khamis Ahmed Al Hammadi and Ismail Ibrahim, came up with a device to provide a renewable source of water by separating moisture from air and won The Big Science Challenge as a result.

The Emirati pupils, from the Rashid Bin Humaid School in Ajman, took part in the competition, organised by the British Council from October to February 2012, along with 16 other teams from around the country.

The aim was to identify the water issue and develop an innovative and low cost solution within five months.

"The UAE has a shortage of fresh water and we have to distil seawater, which is very expensive and not environmentally friendly," said Ahmed, 13.

"Every morning we would see the humidity on the car glass and we thought 'why can't we use this instead'. So, with the help of Mr Ziad, our science teacher, we put it together in a few weeks."

The device uses two units to intensify water vapour in the air and cool it by harnessing solar energy.

The invention caught the attention of Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Eduction and Scientific Research, who met the children on Friday.

Khamis, 12, couldn't contain his excitement.

"We took a picture with him and he encouraged us to do better," said the pupil, who wants to be an engineer when he grows up.

Rob Watson, regional director of Rolls-Royce, which sponsored the programme, said the intention was to get Emiratis interested in science careers at an early age.

Currently, 74 per cent of pupils in public high schools choose arts subjects over science.

"The country has recognised the need for engineers and scientists and the enthusiasm for these subjects starts in the classroom," said Mr Watson.

"We also want to push them to the private sector and highlight the role these subjects play in creating innovative and practical solutions, You can't leave it all to the government."

Saeed Ali Al Shamsi, principal of the pupils' school, said more needs to be done to encourage youngsters into these fields.

"There is a lot of potential among Emiratis, but we need to honestly work on and with them," he said.

"Unfortunately, not all schools are doing that to build the local talent."

The boys will leave for London later this month to attend science workshops and visit museums along with winners of The Big Science Challenge from nine other countries.