Posted on October 27, 2014

Stars of Science, broadcast on MBC4, narrowed down the field of its candidates to a top six in a dramatic elimination episode filled with lively competition and rivalry among the young innovators. Oman’s Sultan Al Subhi and Bahrain’s Thieab Al Dossary advanced after the strength of their product outlook convinced the jury to send them to the next stage. Riham Helmi of Egypt and Thamer Al Askar of Saudi Arabia came up just short in a valiant effort on the seventh episode of Qatar Foundation’s popular “edutainment reality” program.

Stars of Science, now in its sixth season, pits innovators against each other in a competition to turn their ideas into reality. Twelve candidates aged 18 to 30 come to Doha, Qatar, where they are mentored by world-class engineering and design experts at the Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP).  The innovators’ resilience, ingenuity and teamwork are tested in challenges throughout the show as they develop their inventions from concept to commercialization with the ultimate goal of winning funding for their projects.

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The Engineering stage was the culmination of weeks of work for the candidates, who developed their prototypes in close quarters throughout the program. Tension between the candidates ran high with the knowledge that only two of them would remain after facing a jury of tech experts in Episode 7. Candidates’ projects varied widely, but all made use of advanced technology and complicated components, which led to frustrating setbacks and hurried efforts to fix glitches and improve on prototypes.  In addition to technical challenges, the men and women had to consider the marketability of their projects. Riham, for example, had to overcome concerns about the cost and power of the LED lights in her UV Sanitizer Mobile Cover, which can be used to clean surfaces like door handles or keyboards.

Both Sultan and Thieab faced difficulties in producing prototypes for their projects as well. Sultan’s Wudu Area Robotic Cleaner was designed to clean the ablution areas of prayer facilities and mosques but had to account for many changing variables like room size. Meanwhile, Thieab had to adjust his Tactile Communicating Bracelet, which adds an extra dimension to the multimedia experience by relaying pulses to the user’s arm in sync with music. Several tests showed the many components threatened to make it bulky and unwieldy. Thamer, meanwhile,was racing against the clock to produce an advanced prototype of his Virtual Sports Fan, a camera designed for stadiums that can be remotely controlled by users from the comfort of their homes.

The experts examining the candidates and their projects included perennial jurors Mr. Youssif Abdulrahman Al-Salhi, General Manager of Qatar Shell Research and Technology Center and Dr. Fouad Mrad, Executive Director of the United Nations ESCWA regional technology center. For the Engineering stage, Stars of Science welcomed new VIP jury member Mr. Suneet Singh Tuli, who as founder and CEO of DataWind Ltd invented an affordable tablet computer to increase access to computing and the internet.

The judging criteria were based on the performance of each candidate’s prototype performance (40 points), the product’s outlook (40 points), and the resourcefulness and leadership shown by the candidate (20 points).

In an episode that featured a strong lineup of working prototypes, jurors’ questions often focused on each project’s product outlook. Mr. Tuli, an expert on mobile devices, raised concerns about Riham’s UV Sanitizer Mobile Cover, citing cost and the rapidly changing design of mobile phones as barriers to commercial success. Mr. Al-Salhi and Dr. Mrad questioned Sultan on how his Wudu Area Robot Cleaner would account for the many worshippers moving in and out of ablution areas, while Thieab was quizzed on why he thought people would choose his Tactile Communicating Bracelet over other wearable tech devices. Thamer faced some of the toughest critique, mainly focused on the potential for mass appeal and struggled to convince the jury of the Virtual Sports Fan’s practicality.

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“As an entrepreneur that has experience with both success and failure, I wanted to understand how the candidates intended to make their products successful in a competitive market,” noted Mr. Tuli. “The world has many challenges, and it is encouraging that these young innovators are taking meaningful steps to come up with creative solutions. I believe that Stars of Science is an extremely useful way of showing audiences what can be achieved with education and ingenuity.”

When Khaled Al Jumaily revealed the results of the jury’s deliberation, it was Sultan who emerged as the clear winner of the episode, with 86 points. Thieab landed in second place with 70 points, securing his inclusion in the next stage.  Riham and Thamer’s run on Stars of Science came to an end, weaknesses in their project outlook a determining factor in the eyes of the jury. 

The top six candidates remaining represent Tunisia, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. On the next Stars of Science episode, to be shown on 1 November at 8:00 KSA on MBC4, viewers will see three of these candidates compete in the Design stage of the program in an effort to move on to the Stars of Science final. The live final, hosted by Khaled Al Jumaily, will air on MBC4 on 15 November at 8:00 KSA / 5:00 GMT 2014.  Voting from the public and a jury deliberation will determine the final outcome.

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