x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Kuwait inventors win medals

Kuwait inventors won three awards, one silver and two bronze,, at the 39th Geneva International Exhibition of Inventors

Kuwaiti inventor Dr. Al Turqui shows his invention at the Alrai diwaniya, Shuwaikh, Kuwait, on Thursday, April 14, 2011
Kuwaiti inventor Dr. Al Turqui shows his invention at the Alrai diwaniya, Shuwaikh, Kuwait, on Thursday, April 14, 2011

KUWAIT CITY // Kuwaiti inventors have been hailed in the local press for bringing home three awards at the 39th Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions.

The awards, one silver and two bronze, are a boost for innovation in a country that is more famous for importing foreign talent and technology than it is for developing its own.

"The bronze medal was like gold for me in this big competition," said one of the prize winners, Abdulmohsen al Moumen, at a homecoming reception for the team of inventors in the headquarters of a local newspaper, Al Rai, on Thursday night.

Mr al Moumen, an aviation engineer at Kuwait Airways, won his medal in the alarm systems category for an invention that monitors water levels in residential water tanks. He said the device, which utilises a series of floats, would be useful in countries in the developing world that do not get a steady supply of water from the network.

"This device solves an Arab problem, not a European problem," he said. "Normally, you don't know about the shortage until you open the taps and nothing comes out."

Residents in some houses in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia depend on portable tankers for their water supply because they are not connected to the network at all, he said. The system could let the residents know when they need to call their supplier and prevent suppliers from swindling their clients by only partly filling the tanks.

Mr al Moumen's invention was one of around 1,000 on display between April 6 to 10 in Geneva. The organisers said that 48 per cent of the exhibits were European and 47 per cent were from Asia and the Middle East. Of the 45 countries that took part, China had the largest representation, followed by Iran and Russia.

Kuwait has a strong tradition in the event, in large part because of the Kuwait Science Club, a government-funded institution that fosters local scientific talent. Kuwaiti inventors are also boosted by a government scheme to pay fees - around US$20,000 (Dh73,460) - for citizens who want to register a patent in the US.

Turki al Dhafiri, a former mathematics teacher who now works in the inventions' department at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, won a silver award in the education category with his new technique to teach mathematics to children.

The system tries to facilitate the teaching of mathematics by putting the concepts into a format that children can relate to: grains, spikes, and barrels of wheat.

"Wheat is famous all over the world, everybody needs to eat bread or macaroni or whatever, so this is very, very close to the student," Mr al Dhafiri said.

Based on the decimal system, single grains of wheat represent units, spikes of wheat to represent tens and barrels of wheat represent 10,000s. Every decimal group has an equivalent in the agriculture industry up to silos, which contain one million grains of wheat.

The system includes a kit with models to represent the different groups with different shapes. He said his idea was developed over nine years and it has already been tested successfully in several countries.

The Arab Times says the third Kuwaiti award winner, Abdullah al Hashash, won a bronze for an innovative water supply system.

For many of the inventors, the exhibition was not just a place to win awards; it was about finding an investor with enough cash to develop their ideas into successful commercial products. The organisers estimate that 55 per cent of the 60,000 visitors in Geneva were industrialists, distributors and businessmen, and more than 45 per cent of the inventions exhibited were linked to licensing contracts.

Mr al Dhafiri said he hopes to develop his idea commercially, but after teaching mathematics for 40 years he is more concerned with contributing something new to the field. He said: "When I got the patent, they searched all over the world, and there was nothing like this."