ABU DHABI // Youths from across the Emirates met on Monday to dream up plans for unmanned vehicles capable of saving lives in an emergency situation, and build models of them.
The Make It engineering and manufacturing competition, hosted at Khalifa University by Mubadala and the Abu Dhabi Education Council, challenged 95 public and private school pupils to develop a business strategy around their prototypes.
Pupils had to come up with a company brand, slogan and marketing plan to support their products, which had to be delivered on deadline and under budget.
“In school they learn the science – the theory – but we really want to focus on application,” said Fatima Al Marzouqi, head of Mubadala’s education and training division.
“We wanted them to build it, to go through it, to feel it.”
Working in teams of up to eight, pupils received mentoring from Khalifa University students and professional engineers from Strata Manufacturing and BAE Systems.
Each team member was assigned a professional role, such as manufacturing manager, finance manager, quality controller, sales and marketing manager or designer. Their work was also scrutinised by judges who work in the manufacturing sector.
“We’re looking for everything from teamwork to inspirational designs,” said Kathryn Earl, a Bae Systems judge. “The intention is that they have the opportunity to understand that within the manufacturing or engineering industry, there is a broad range of roles.
“What we’re aiming to do is attract more people into the manufacturing and engineering sectors here in the UAE.
“Historically, people have maybe entered into the oil and gas industry and the intention today is to show a broad range of careers that are available and spark an interest in the pupils.”
Science teacher Leila Abouzeenni said the day-long exercise presented the pupils with “real-world challenges” that complemented their classroom education.
“They are working as if they are real engineers,” said Mrs Abouzeenni, who teaches girls from grades six to nine. “They are learning presentation skills, time management, to brainstorm, plan. These are things they learn in the field.”
Fatin Sawalha, who also teaches science, said the challenges opened the pupils’ minds to new study and career possibilities by giving them a better understanding of what is actually involved in engineering and manufacturing.
“For girls, before they didn’t show interest in these kinds of areas. They felt that engineering, no, it’s something for men. But this has shown them that, yeah, it’s something that’s very close to me. I can do this, and this is open to me.
“They are ready to get me into this area, and I can have some brilliant ideas.”
For 13-year-old Fatima Al Shemmari, this was her second time taking part in the Make It challenge.
“It was amazing, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” said the Emirati Grade 8 pupil.
“I feel that experiences like these, like the Make It competition, give us the opportunity to experience new perspectives and see that there are other tasks that could intrigue you into becoming an engineer.”
Abdulla Al Zarooni, 14, said the experience of building a prototype that copuld positively affect people’s lives persuaded him to consider a job as an engineer.
“Maybe I can make more inventions like this and help more people,” the Grade 9 Emirati said.
And, although Make It was a competition, winning was not necessarily his first priority.
“The idea is not to win, the idea is to help people,” Abdulla said.
The challenge is one of several events being held this week in public and private schools as part of UAE Innovation Week, which promotes science, technology, engineering and maths
“This is the future of the economy, this is what we really need,” Ms Al Marzouqi said. “This is giving them the reality of what’s to come in the future. They have to understand how companies work and what skills are required.”