Student inventors to represent Egypt in science competition

Safaa Abdoun
7 Min Read

CAIRO: The winners of the Intel Egyptian Science and Engineering Fair (ESEF) will represent Egypt at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest pre-college science competition, taking place this year at Georgia, USA from May 11 to 16.

Approximately 1,000 projects applied this year to ESEF, from which the Science Review Committee chose 67 to participate in the fair, which took place at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on March 30, according to Ahmed Nafie, Head of the ISEF Committee.

There were 10 winning projects from 10 different scientific categories, but only three projects were chosen to participate at ISEF.

Sink Safely

From the engineering, electrical and mechanical category, the “Sink Safely project won.

Smartly dressed in business suits, the team members Ahmed Tarek, 15, Mahmoud Shibl, 16, and Omar Ghorab, 15, are not the typical science nerds at school. All three were charismatic as they passionately talked about their projects to a room-full of ISEF organizers and Intel employees.

“Sink Safely is an escape mechanism for opening a car door when it is subjected to water pressure. “All the passenger has to do is press a button and the device is activated and in 30 seconds the car door is let loose, explained Tarek.

The boys spent two months researching and testing the device. They started off by imagining themselves in a sinking car and thought of the challenges they might face in such a situation.

“We realized that everything in the car, whether it’s the central lock or the windows, will all stop functioning once the car is in the water so there is no other solution than to get rid of the door completely, said Shibl.

The high school students started off working on their own, but after unsuccessful attempts they decided to join forces and join the fair together.

“It was a group effort, we’re not geniuses. It took lots of research and experiments to come to this end result, said Ghorab.

They boys are not only exceptional scientists, but also aspiring businessmen who hope the device will one day be among other safety systems such as airbags and seat belts, which are now standard features in most cars.

Stem Cell research

The second winner is Gina Gayed, 17, from the Microbiology category. She won for her participation in a research project to find a cure for Hepatitis C using stem cells. However, she wasn’t able to speak in detail due to confidentiality issues surrounding her work, which is awaiting publication in the future.

The science-lover started her research on stem cells last year at school, enabling her to assist a doctor at the National Cancer Institute in his work on stem cells.

“[It is basically] a treatment for liver insufficiency caused by Hepatitis C, using stem cells derived from the patient himself to rebuild the sick liver, explained Gayed.

Gayed is excited about going to ISEF. “It’s very interesting to participate in an international science fair where I will meet people my age from all over the world and [check] their projects, she said.

Bullet Proof Blond

Whoever said blonds have more fun must have had the third winner, Amira Badran, in mind. She won the Physics, Astronomy and Material Science category. The 15-year-old enjoyed every step of the way as she worked on a new application of non-Newtonian fluids as a bullet-proof material.

“I loved the whole process; in the beginning as I was doing my research then while I was testing it and the trip to Alexandria for the ISEF. And I can’t wait for the conference, she said.

Badran first got the idea for this project when she was working on a school project and came across a website on lumpy liquids and squishy solids.

Intrigued by this material, she started studying its properties. Having decided that it might be able to resist hard objects traveling quickly – such as bullets – she proposed that it would be a suitable material to fill bullet-proof vests with.

“It’s relatively cheap and we need something like that, especially in Arab countries, said Badran. “It’s not necessarily for military use. I recommend that bodyguards and shooters use it too, she added.

Testing Inventions

Testing their inventions was a challenge to the “Sink Safely team and for Badran, however nothing could set back the determined students. “No one would give us their car to test our device on as we expected so we went to a junk market and bought a car door for LE 300, said Shibl.

As for Badran, she also wasn’t able to get any volunteers to test her bullet vest on. “I had to do all the testing on dummies but I hope I could find a way when I’m at ISEF, she said.

The winners will go up against more than 1,500 young inventors at Intel ISEF from more than 50 countries, all competing over more than $4 million in scholarships and prizes. In addition, they will get the chance to meet more than 1,200 science, engineering, and industry professionals who will judge the projects and determine the winners.

“Intel looks forward to this fair every year because it is such a wonderful opportunity for Egypt’s young thinkers to show their work to a global audience, said Khaled Elamrawi, Intel General Manager, Egypt, Levant and North Africa in a press statement.

“It is through these types of initiatives that Intel works to improve teaching and learning through the effective use of technology, helping to advance mathematics, science, and engineering education and research, he added.

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