Posted on February 26, 2020

Engineering students from Texas A&M University at Qatar recently spent 48 hours designing, building and presenting ideas and technologies of benefit to the world during Invent for the Planet 2020, an international innovation competition.

Texas A&M at Qatar’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) organized and hosted the Qatar competition, in which 29 students participated. For the first time, CTL invited students from other Education City partner universities to participate, and students from VCUarts Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and Georgetown University in Qatar joining the Texas A&M students in the contest.

Started by Texas A&M University’s main campus in College Station, Texas (USA), Invent for the Planet asked students from more than 30 participating universities around the world to tackle the most challenging issues facing the world today in just 48 hours. At each location, teams were formed based on a shared interest in one of the available need statements. Then over the following two days, the teams researched their topic, collaborated with mentors, came up with a plan and built a simple prototype. Each team then presented its product to a panel of judges.

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First place and a $1,000 prize went to The Pythons Team of Muhammad Paracha, Sofian Ghazali, Afsha Shaikh, Insha Shaikh, Reem Almajdoubeh from Texas A&M at Qatar and Naima Almajdobah from VCUarts Qatar. Their product, Parkin', is an app that allows users to prebook parking spots in areas with high amount of traffic. The app is connected to a cloud that shows a live feed of the parking spots and allows users to book a preferable spot. A road blocker attached with sensors then indicates that the parking spot is reserved.

Second place went to the WaterWays Team whose product CleverSink aims to reduce freshwater consumption by using non-potable water in appliances and fixtures. With the implementation of the new product, 30 percent of freshwater can be saved annually. Third place went to SMARTCart, a smart shopping cart that integrates a barcode system and a strain gauge to ease out the shoppers' experience. During the competition, the student teams were mentored by experts from the TASMU Innovation Laboratory, part of the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

TASMU’s Eman Al-Kuwari said, “With a human-centric approach at the heart of its strategy, TASMU is a platform that thrives on collaboration and co-creation. We take pride in participating in this year’s Invent for the Planet as mentors and jury members, and support the local innovation ecosystem. It was an exceptional experience for us to see students of different disciplines coming together and co-creating possible solutions to our world’s critical problems. They showed a high level of creativity in problem solving and admirable team spirit.” 

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The Pythons team will now perfect their presentation before submitting a video to be judged remotely. A panel of international judges will select the top five teams from around the world, and those teams will travel to Texas A&M’s main campus for a final pitch competition to be held 31 March – 2 April. The winner will be named the champion of Invent for the Planet 2020. Reem Almajdoubeh, a petroleum engineering freshman, said she participated in the competition to gain hands-on engineering experience and evolve her skills. “I learned business management skills, teamwork skills and most importantly learning to solve major problems in a restricted timing,” she said. “My team and I have a variety of skills, from editing to technical skills. We are all confident with what we have presented and worked on so far, and we can see ourselves moving forward.”

Naima Almajdobah, a graphic design student at VCUarts Qatar, said, “Invent for the Planet was a one-of-a-kind experience that I learned a lot from. At first I was hesitant: What can a graphic designer do in a science competition? Apparently a lot can be done! I realized how everything is better when all majors and minds get combined together. It’s an experience that I am willing to do all over again and encourage students from other Education City universities to participate in.”

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