x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Students spread their wings

As their aircraft soared into the air on the first day of the UAE Innovation Challenge, so too did the aspirations and career paths of many of those competing.

Members of the Royal Queenz team, from Abu Dhabi Women's College, prepare their model, and possibly their careers, for launch at the competition.
Members of the Royal Queenz team, from Abu Dhabi Women's College, prepare their model, and possibly their careers, for launch at the competition.

As the students made their final preparations for flight, some checked the wings of their planes, while others tapped away at their computers, checking their autopilot systems.

As their aircraft soared into the air on the first day of the UAE Innovation Challenge, so too did the aspirations and career paths of many of those competing.

The two-day contest requires students to work in teams to design and build miniature planes, which go head-to-head in a friendly battle.

Organisers hope the event will encourage the entrants to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Aimed exclusively at Emirati students, the event is being attended by talent scouts from potential employers. The winning team will be flown to Las Vegas this summer to display their design at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Convention for North America.

For the competitors, whose creations are judged on presentation, weight, endurance and the ability to fly on autopilot, the event is the culmination of five months' work.

"We are looking towards becoming good engineers, so we did this to get some experience. It's something nice," said Ahmed Al Shuaibi, 21, from Abu Dhabi Men's College, whose team was called Predators of the Year.

Assisting the teams were engineers from Northrop Grumman Corporation, in partnership with the Higher Colleges of Technology to host the event, along with Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investment.

As the day progressed, the pressure increased. For some, it has been building since last year's inaugural competition.

"If we didn't come back, other teams would have been looking for us, asking why we did not participate, said Khalil Albalooshi, who was part of last year's winning team, Emirates Robotics from Dubai Men's College. Following some last-minute adjustments, the team of seven and their leader, Mohammad Al Shamsi, propelled their red and white plane into the air.

The Royal Queenz team, from Abu Dhabi Women's College, was also competing again. Their plane, Ace Combat, impressed both judges and spectators. "We are optimistic," said team leader Walaa Ali. "We have high hopes."

zalhassani@thenational.ae

For video, visit www.thenational.ae/dronechallenge