Arab TV contest promotes innovation

A pan-Arab innovation contest for the region's youth declares its winner.

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    Arab scientists discovered coffee, developed the numbering system and made many breakthroughs in maths, physics and mechanics.

    But now, many Arab countries import scientists and businesspeople from abroad and struggle to find young people with the right skills at home.

    For example in Jordan, 63 per cent of new jobs went to expatriate workers between 2001 and 2007. In the UAE, 81 per cent of unemployed are young people.

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    In Egypt, more than 80 per cent of all unemployed citizens are between ages 15 and 29.

    In an attempt to change the lack of entrepeneurship and innovation among the Arab world's youth, pan-Arab innovation contest has been set up in the form of a reality TV show called Stars of Science.

    After two years of planning, six months of global auditions and the broadcast of daily shows across 15 Arab countries, the live finale of a competition to find the Arab world’s future Stars of Science opened in Doha last night.

    Before the challenge began, the show travelled to Doha, Tunis, Alexandria and Beirut. A total of 5,600 applicants were narrowed down to 100, and eventually to just 16.

    The 16 contestants, aged between 21 and 31 and hailing from 11 countries, each pitched an original idea to the judges and spent one month in Qatar in a custom-built workshop at Qatar Science & Technology Park.

    Here they used tools and received coaching to expand upon their ideas.

    Each week they faced challenges in the fields of engineering, design, business and marketing.

    Instead of eliminating contests, as is often done in television reality series, each week losers joined up with the winners to create teams.

    During the final episode, broadcast live from Aspire Sports Academy in Doha on June 26, there were two teams led by the two best contestants to win the $300,000 prize.

    Bassam Jalgha, a 22-year-old robotics reseacher from Lebanon who was declared the winner, invented an automatic tuner for string instruments.

    Mohamed Orsod, a 26-year-old university professor from Sudan, built a device to test the quality of cooking oil and its safety.

    Much like many similar live shows in the Arab world, the audience decided the winner by sending text messages or emails with their vote.

    Aside from the novelty of the event, the participants each gained valuable skills and international recognition for their ideas.

    Still, in the Middle East, around 25 per cent of people under 25 are out of work, and they too need opportunities of their own.

    The show's creators aimed to provide a showcase for young innovative Arabs in an attempt to promote and encourage scientific careers in the region.

    Although production has ended, Jean Rouilly, the executive producer of Stars of Science, said that he hopes the show's success will inspire millions of young Arabs who have yet to get such an opportunity.

    "This programme is a start, obviously it can't reach everyone, but we hope to show what people can do," Rouilly said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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