Solutions to Global Challenges

Meet this year’s winners of the GEMS Innovation Awards, which recognise young geniuses, inventors and entrepreneurs.

Over 200 students from across the GEMS Education network of schools were recognised at the GEMS Innovation Awards held at GEMS Dubai American Academy on 1 May. Awards were handed out to the top performers in four separate challenges – Global Innovation Challenge, GEMS Xcelerator Programme, GEMS ENBD Future of Digital Finance Challenge, and GEMS Innovative School of the Year.

The 2018-19 Global Innovation Challenge, in partnership with Silicon Valley-based Singularity University (SU), was launched in October last year and has seen tens of thousands of GEMS Education students apply their skills to produce high-impact solutions to a range of global problems and challenges. The most innovative projects were shortlisted, which saw some 100 students across 35 teams benefit from mentorship from industry professionals, seed funding, and entrepreneurship workshops.

Teams then pitched their ideas to a panel of judges from VISA, Emirates Airline, Microsoft, INJAZ UAE, DTEC and other organisations during demo days held in April at GEMS World Academy – Dubai, after which the eventual winners were selected.

“The GEMS Innovation Awards were launched specifically with the aim of developing and recognising a culture of innovation among our students. We want to encourage and enable them to build on compelling ideas that can transform our world by addressing and finding solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing challenges, while also helping them to take their products and inventions to the next stage of development and eventually to market. This underlines our commitment to the UAE leadership’s vision to nurture innovation skills among our young generation, and we are incredibly proud of the enterprise and genius shown by our talented students,” says Dino Varkey, Chief Executive Officer, GEMS Education.

GEMS Education students from around the world were invited to submit prototypes using future-focused technologies such as 3D printing, robotics and nanotechnology to address several areas including disaster resilience, environment, energy, food, health, learning, security, prosperity, governance, space, shelter and water. The Global Innovation Challenge winners were split into junior and senior categories, with the three winning teams in the latter due to present their projects at the Singularity University Global Summit in California, USA, taking place between 19 and 21 August 2019.

The three winning teams in the junior category won access to a personalised mentorship webinar from Singularity University until August; personalised mentorship from GEMS X for the next six months; and where relevant, connections to industry partners and showcasing opportunities.

Muhammad Musa Asim, a Grade 6 pupil at Cambridge International School — Dubai submitted a mobile tele-surgery vehicle complete with robotic arms, cameras, and equipment for virtual first-stage emergencies. Moov is designed to allow emergency medical professionals to operate on a patient in the ambulance, either at the accident site or in transit. It can be installed into existing ambulances with only minor upgrades required.

Five students from GEMS Millennium School — Sharjah have created a solar-powered, self-regulating food refrigeration and storage unit intended to tackle food wastage by being conveniently onsite for construction workers and people in remote areas. The benefits of the mini fridge are that it is: smart; durable; offers sufficient storage; economical and inexpensive; sustainable, green, and user-friendly; easily portable; lightweight; and safe. The winning students are Samarth Shetty, Mumukshya Baitharu, Jerome Joseph, Rida Zahid, and Aparajitha Rama Murali.

Parv Bhadra and Sachit Singh Juneja from GEMS Modern Academy — Dubai tackled the high death count as a result of natural disasters. They created a weather-proof, lightweight, modular, and portable shelter unit designed to help people displaced by these unforeseen events. The frame is made of a lightweight aluminium magnesium alloy. The shelter is covered with Tyvek, a brand of flash spun, high-density polyethylene fibres.

The three winning teams in the senior category each walked away with personalised mentorship from Singularity University and GEMS X until the SU Summit in August. The winning students will also attend the SU Summit in San Francisco, with GEMS X covering 50% of the cost to students which includes: a round trip airfare to San Francisco, a four-night stay at the Hilton San Francisco, with all breakfasts and most meals included; entry to all keynotes, speeches, and agenda items of the Summit for all three days; exclusive exhibition space in their main expo area; an exclusive pitching slot on their main expo area stage; pitching guidance from the SU and GEMS X team on site; and 12 months’ support from GEMS X in the sharing and referring of relevant showcasing, promotion, and mentorship opportunities.

Aastha Das, Priya Sadhu, and Amritha Kondapalli from GEMS New Millennium School — Al Khail highlighted female safety with SHERO, a wearable ring that provides an added layer of security for women courtesy of a built-in low-voltage taser. A GPS tracker connected to an app sends SOS signals to selected contacts.

Chronic wounds must be kept moist to promote healing but changing the bandages too often can make things worse. Currently, bandage changes are timed based on experience, but if they are changed too soon the wound can reopen, or changed too late and the moisture will drop, causing infection and slowed healing. GEMS Millennium School — Sharjah students Mohammed Ismail, Hisham Musthafa, and Shiwam Singh have created a sensor-loaded bio-compatible bandage for chronic wounds. E-bandages have tiny sensors which display the moisture level of the wound, temperature and pH value on any device, so that the patient knows when to change the dressing. The sensors are placed under the cotton sheath so that the bleeding is controlled and the blood is coagulated, ensuring no harmful effects on the wound.

The team from Our Own English High School, Sharjah — Boys’ Branch has created an aid for the partially and completely visually impaired that uses real-time image and object classification to inform users what is in front of them via an earpiece. The team members are Ahsan Nayaz, Vraj Rajpura, Aryan Krishnan, and Mrudul Mamtani.

The GEMS Xcelerator Programme was held in March and April this year and provided students with financial and non-financial support as well as mentoring to build customer- and growth-oriented business plans around their products. Students took part in workshops covering topics such as leadership and entrepreneurial skills, design thinking and customer research, marketing and business planning, IP protection and pitching to investors. The programme culminated in a special Demo Day, where each participating team pitched to the region’s leading technology venture capital firms, investors and corporate innovators.

The winning project was Conntext by Beaux Consunji, a student at GEMS Wellington Academy — Silicon Oasis (WSO). Not only can many people not afford an internet connection, but they also cannot afford a device to use it. Therefore, there is no easy way for people without access to the internet to gain accurate, on-demand information. Conntext is a web search engine delivered through SMS, empowering developing regions and areas without internet access at the cost of sending a text message.

Beaux won AED10,000 towards the development of her solution and will receive 12 months’ support from GEMS X, as well as the sharing and referring of relevant showcasing, promotion, and mentorship opportunities. She developed her project with Shafaque Riaz, school mentor and ICT and CS teacher at WSO, and Kapil Raghuraman, and external mentor from the Partner Advisory Services EY.

The winning project of the GEMS ENBD Future of Digital Finance Challenge was iSafe by Hriday Thakkar from The Cambridge High School — Abu Dhabi. iSafe is a digital savings product for children aged six to 18 which addresses some of the disadvantages of a physical piggy bank, such as not being able to track the amount received and saved, the money saved doesn’t earn interest and grow, and it provides insufficient money managing values.

Of the parents surveyed for the project, 86% said they prefer a digital solution to track their children’s allowances while 100% want to encourage their kids to save and understand basic finance principles. iSafe allows parents to transfer money, track expenses, and assign chores. Hriday won AED 5,000 cash as well as mentorship, internship and product incubation opportunities by Emirates NBD.

GEMS New Millennium School — Al Khail was crowned this year’s GEMS Innovative School of the Year.