x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Think Science contest helps spur students’ interest, says UAE academic

The noticeable increase in interest in the sciences was in big part due to events such as Think Science, says one of the judges of this year's competition, Dr Hussein El Mehdi.

Dr Hussein Al Mehdi from the University of Sharjah speaks to students at the Think Science workshop. Antonie Robertson / The National
Dr Hussein Al Mehdi from the University of Sharjah speaks to students at the Think Science workshop. Antonie Robertson / The National

Abu Dhabi // The number of students studying sciences at universities across the country is growing every year, according to academics.

In a Think Science workshop on Sunday, Dr Hussein El Mehdi, vice dean of sciences at the University of Sharjah said: “In past years we would rarely get six or seven students signed up for our classes.

“Nowadays we are talking about classes of 20 to 25 in the applied science fields.”

The professor of physics, who will be chairing the judging committee at this year’s competition, said that the noticeable increase in interest in the sciences was in big part due to events such as Think Science.

“What students need is encouragement, motivation and support and Think Science provides all three.”

A study at the University of Sharjah has shown students who participate in such competitions excelled academically in the science fields, according to Dr El Mehdi.

“We found that 83 per cent of students who perform well in our subjects have been involved in science competitions.

“This gives you an idea what kind of impact these events have on students and how much it expands their scientific horizons.”

Participants were shown how to execute their projects using scientific methodology, how to present their projects, and made aware of the competition’s rules, conditions, categories, judging process, and evaluation criteria.

The workshop was attended by hundreds of students and dozens of science teachers, supervisors, lab technicians and mentors from public and private secondary schools and universities across the UAE.

One student said the workshop gave him good guidance on how to proceed with his science project.

“They gave us great ideas on how to improve and present our project at the competition,” said Mohammed Faisal Al Wahedi, 18, from the Applied Technology High School in Madinat Zayed in the Western Region.

The Emirati, who wants to become an aerospace engineer, is working on the idea of introducing magnets in vehicles to prevent car crashes.

Mohammed said he hoped his project could benefit the UAE community as well as people from all across the region.

“At least a quarter of Emirati students in my school intend to pursue technical careers so hopefully more projects benefiting the society come from us.”

Another student who benefited from the workshop was Mohammed Haris, 17, from the Islamia English School in Abu Dhabi.

“Today we learned a lot about how to present our project and how to convey ourselves while presenting.”

Mohammed’s project focuses on helping the physically disabled with the use of a PlayStation camera. “The technology in the camera can help people move a cursor on the screen with the movement of their pupils.”

He said Think Science helped him and other students build confidence in expressing their ideas to a large audience.

Emirates Foundation chief programmes officer, Maytha Al Habsi, said that by building up the capacities of Think Science competition participants, the workshops would help create an environment in which young UAE scientists could design and develop innovative and highly-functional inventions to address the needs of the community and environment and contribute to the advancement of the nation.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae