Brightest pupils in UAE compete to become first Young Scientist of the Year
The country’s top student thinkers and tinkerers swill showcase their projects this week as they compete for the first UAE Young Scientist of the Year award.
The national competition is being held as part of the National Science, Technology and Innovation Festival that starts on Thursday and continues daily until Monday at Festival Arena in Dubai.
Emirati students from kindergarden to Grade 12 were invited to submit proposals for entry into the competition in one of four main categories: technology; social and behavioral sciences; biological and ecological sciences; and chemical, physical and mathematical sciences.
The Ministry of Education received more than 937 submissions and selected 177 projects that will be presented by more than 300 pupils from grades six to 12.
The winner of each of the four categories will take home Dh4,000. Prizes of Dh2,000 will be awarded for winners of 24 sub-categories.
A grand prize of Dh25,000 will be given to whichever student proves to be the country’s top young scientist.
“It’s like the ultimate award of the science fair and the festival,” said Dr Amna Al Shamsi, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary of the activities sector and director of innovation and entrepreneurship department.
“The vision for this award is to be the most prestigious award at the UAE level for students participating with projects in science, technology and innovation. It will drive the students to always thrive to be that young scientist.”
The award is modelled after Ireland’s successful BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, an annual student science fair and competition, which has been running since 1965 to encourage young people to get excited by and involved in stem. The exhibition’s co-founder, Dr Tony Scott, will attend the awarding ceremony on Monday.
Dr Al Shamsi said she hoped the award in Dubai would grow to become as prestigious and successful as the one in Ireland.
“We always look at best practices to bring to our education system,” said Dr Al Shamsi. “They have a big list of BT alumni who have won that award and have really contributed to the economy of Ireland and also became entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley.”
In addition to hosting the science fair, the young scientist award will offer visitors an outdoor family festival with free workshops, live performances and a “start-up market,’ with food and beverage vendors.
The festival will centre around different themes.
Friday will be Ukulele Day and will feature a workshop in which 300 visitors will be taught on stage how to play the Ukulele by British musician Jake Rodrigues.
Saturday is “wear your future day,” when students will be encouraged to attend dressed as the professional they wish to be in the future.
Sunday is 3D printing day, featuring workshops and contents involving the new 3D printing technology.
The festival also offers a chance for the Ministry of Education to demonstrate some of the new initiatives it has launched in classrooms across the country, such as its recently launched classroom hydroponics programme.
“The most interesting thing about it is that it engages everyone, whether kids or adults, everyone will have something to do,” said Hessa Saleh, the education ministry's head of entrepreneurship and innovation who is overseeing the family festival.
"It’s a perfect place for the family to spend the weekend."
A number of UAE’s ministers and role models, including aspiring astronaut Alia Al Mansoori, will be joined by international speakers, scientists and an astronaut to address the students as part of a conference that will be held alongside the festival.
The UAE Minister of Education Hussain Al Hammadi is expected to deliver the opening address 11am on Thursday.
“The National Science, Technology and Innovation (NSTI) Festival organised by the Ministry of Education has significant importance as it reiterates the nation’s visions that make innovation the core of its journey towards science and advanced knowledge,” said Jameela bint Salem Al-Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, who will address the audience Sunday.
“The festival demonstrates the aspirations of our government and the vision of our wise leadership that recognise the importance of innovation and shed light on its invaluable contribution in various spheres of life.”