The TV Show That Reignited The Spirit Of Arab Invention

QSTP - Stars of Science dinner and grand finale - Foundation Magazine feature_287-resized.jpgFour more starry-eyed inventors have entered the world of business following the live Grand Finale of the latest series of the pan-Arab televised competition, Stars of Science.

More fans than ever have engaged with the fifth season of the show, an initiative of Qatar Foundation that aims to revive entrepreneurship and innovation in the Arab world.

VIP jury member Dr Farouk El Baz, an Egyptian-American scientist widely known for his work at NASA, where he assisted in planning the scientific exploration of the moon, has been part of Stars of Science since the beginning. He says the show has evolved into a polished production.

“It was something that had never been done before. When it began, we didn’t know where to start or how to end. We have consistently been improving the format and trying new things and now it has matured,” says Dr El Baz.

He says that the show’s producers have refined the process for the whole series, from attracting applications and fine-tuning the selection process to finally presenting everything as a television show.

In Season 1, Stars of Science had three permanent jury members, judging all stages of the competition.
The show now has a raft of support, and includes juries specific to each stage of the competition, composed of permanent members as well as guest experts.

To start, candidates were selected from a casting tour taking in four countries around the Middle East. The unsuccessful candidates would stay on in the program to support the successful candidates until there were two teams and two finalists left. The show was presented with four episodes shown on television and 20 daily episodes shown on the Stars of Science website.

In Season 2, the format was adapted to include eliminations, whittling the 16 candidates down to four finalists who go through to the live Grand Finale. The casting tour was extended to eight countries across the Middle East and the broadcasting of the program was increased to nine episodes shown on television, and 30 daily episodes shown on the website.
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Dr El Baz says: “The candidates we receive are quite knowledgeable and more know exactly what to do because they have already seen it on television.”

The viewing public, he says, has also learned more about what it takes to be an inventor and, as a result,
they are seeing higher quality contestants come forward. “The audience is familiar with the kind of questions that will be asked and how to respond; they learn how to be more efficient and more impressive.

Stars of Science is pushing the frontiers and doing something that’s never been done before. People are beginning to hear about entrepreneurship and innovation and they see that if they do it, they get rewarded for it.”

Dr Eyad Masad, Assistant Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at Texas A&M University at Qatar, who is an Engineering Phase juror on the show, adds that the nature of the projects have also changed, with many concerned about the well-being of society and improving quality of life.

Dr Masad said: ‘‘The projects this year show that this young generation is concerned about the well-being of the society and the world. Most of the projects focused on improving quality of life.’’

In the Season 5 finale, Waleed Jan of Saudi Arabia developed a mechanical Braille editor which enables blind people to edit text before it is punched on paper, and Sherif Yahia of Egypt developed a speech synthesizer for the language impaired. First place went to Algeria’s Mohammed Doumir, who developed boots to detect muscle injuries in camels.
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Fahad Al Kuwari, Media Relations Manager for Stars of Science, says: “We saw a big increase in the number of applications we received for Season 5, which shows that more people are interested.”

He says the shows producers changed the criteria for applications at the start of Season 4 to focus on quality, as the program inspired more people to enter.

The show doesn’t only focus on the 18 to 30-year-olds eligible to enter however, says Fahad Al Kuwari. The program is now shown in schools, while the Stars of Science team also attends exhibitions and other events to get children interested from a young age.

“The successful stories of Stars of Science candidates play an important role in encouraging the youth to invest in their ideas. It is our experience that ideas make money and we try to encourage our candidates and graduates of the Stars of Science Academy to invest in their ideas to help them make a better future for themselves,” he says.

It is this role model culture that inspired this year’s Qatari finalist, Mohammed Al Kuwari, to enter the competition.

Mohammed Al Kuwari, who was working in business administration and management in a private company, says he was inspired by the success of fellow Qatari inventor, Khalid Aboujassoum, last year’s Stars of Science winner.

“When I saw Khalid last year on Stars of Science, it motivated me to do something good for the future and for Qatar. That’s why I thought about applying for Stars of Science.

“I faced a lot of problems during the stages, but each time I had really big problems, I saw my friend Khalid in front of the lights. I dreamed about Khalid Aboujassoum and wanted to be like him, holding up the Qatari flag at the finale of Stars of Science.”

Mohammed Al Kuwari said Stars of Science had changed his life forever, transforming him from a management professional to an engineer and designer.

He came second in the live finale with i7, his goal-line technology that accurately records whether or not the ball has crossed the goal-line during a football match. He says: “Going back to business and management is now Mission Impossible. I cannot go back to business administration; I’m an engineer, a designer, and a businessman.

"After Stars of Science I will work on providing this to the whole world as a finished product. My target is to see it as the big thing in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

Many of the finalists who have graduated from the Stars of Science Academy have continued to develop the projects they invented on the show, as well as other ideas and inventions.

Former winners and participants have so far gone on to establish 15 companies, filed numerous patents, won international awards and turned their innovative ideas into commercial products.

Wahiba Chair, an Algerian entrepreneur, took part in Season 1 of Stars of Science with her invention ‘CarrotLines’, a mobile application to help consumers make healthier choices by scanning barcodes on food items. The app was featured in the top 10 Health and Fitness Apps on iTunes in Canada and has won multiple awards for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Khaled Eid, from Kuwait, won third place in Season 4 with his invention ‘Holific’, a portable device to enable the use of 3D holographics for personal, professional and educational purposes. Eid has already signed deals to provide his product to renowned Kuwaiti organizations, including Al Hamra Tower, Wataniya Telecom, Zain Teleco, and Al-Ojairi Museum.

Mazen Salah, from Jordan, took part in Stars of Science Season 1 in 2009 with a car-cooling innovation that uses solar energy. He has since launched another product, StatiCap — a hubcap for a car wheel, which stays upright while the wheel turns, enabling pictures or logos to be displayed. The product has been launched in Saudi Arabia and Salah has also secured patents for StatiCap elsewhere in the Arab world, Europe and the United States.

Hind Hobeika, from Lebanon, took third place in Stars of Science Season 2 in 2010 with a waterproof heart rate-measuring device that can be placed on swimming goggles to optimize swimmers’ training. Her device, ‘Instabeat’, is currently being manufactured and the company is taking pre-orders.

This innovative breakthrough, like the others featured here, illustrated by these examples is testament to the success of Stars of Science and how the show has the potential to unlock the vault of ideas in the minds of young Arabs.

The Process
  • 18 to 30-year-olds from the Arab world apply online at www.starsofscience.com providing details of their idea.
  • Season 6 deadline for applications is 15 December, 2013. After this date, any new applications will go towards Season 7.
  • A casting tour held across eight countries is shown in episodes 1 and 2, resulting in the selection of 16 candidates by the jury in episode 3.
  • Candidates develop their product at Qatar Science & Technology Park with the support of top engineering, design, and business professionals and some of the world’s leading academic institutions.
Four key stages of development are shown:
1. Proof of Concept, in which 10 candidates out of 16 will continue to the next phase. These 10 candidates have the option to bring a project partner of their choice in to assist them in one of the future phases.
2. Product Engineering, in which six candidates out of 10 will continue.
3. Design, in which five will remain.
4. Business & Marketing, which will decide the four finalists to compete at the live Grand Finale.

During the Grand Finale, the candidates launch their products with artistic flair from the Stars of Science team with visual representations of their products through interpretive theater.

The winner is decided 50 percent by the jury’s opinions and 50 percent through public vote by SMS and telephone.

The final four contestants win $300,000 for first place, $150,000 for second place, $100,000 for third place, and $50,000 for fourth place to commercialize their products.