Showcasing Youth Innovative Research Abilities

Qatar Foundation’s (QF’s) commitment to ensuring a fluid cycle of education for students is one that will benefit Qatar today and tomorrow. By nurturing inquisitive minds from an early age, and rewarding their endeavors, QF is ensuring a smooth journey toward Qatar National Vision 2030.
The merits of such a forward-thinking vision were evident upon the recent successes of eighth grade students from Awsaj Academy, a member of QF, who triumphed over staunch competition from 199 competing schools in Qatar to claim third prize at a prestigious national research contest.

Sponsored by the Supreme Education Council (SEC), the Seventh National Student Scientific Research Competition provided a unique opportunity for schools to showcase the independent research and creative innovation abilities of their young students in Qatar. Forty entries were selected at the initial stage, with eight teams then being shortlisted at the final stage.

Conscious of food security issues in Qatar, three students from Awsaj Academy impressed the judges with their research project titled ‘The Effect of LED Lighting on Lettuce Growth’.

The success of the Awsaj Academy students is the latest in a long list of accomplishments for the hundreds of bright young minds enrolled in QF schools, many of whom have participated at both local and international scientific competitions throughout the last academic year.

Speaking to The Foundation, Peter Corcoran, Executive Director, QF Schools, said: “The educational and research programs at QF schools aim to nurture a student’s curiosity about the world, prompt them to think independently, and ask critical questions about why things work in relation to other things.

“The main objective is to encourage students to generate new thoughts, rather than just recite knowledge, and those are the skills that will serve them well as they head off to university and pursue their lives as adults.”

Corcoran added: “These are also skills we are committed to developing in our students from a very early age. Even at primary school level, we encourage our students to develop their critical thinking by engaging them in research projects, which is in keeping with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program that we offer in a variety of our schools.
“One of the most important values of IB is enquiry-based learning. So what we are looking to do is develop enquiring minds, confidence in our students to take risks, and individuals who are not only knowledgeable, but reflective of the world they live in.”

Promoting excellence
Encouraging students from an early age to engage in scientific research is part of QF’s commitment to promoting the culture of research and innovation at all educational levels.

QF’s research initiatives are aligned with the Qatar National Research Strategy, which is based on five pillars that address priority areas: health and biomedicine; energy and the environment; computing and technology research; social science, arts, and humanities; in addition to basic research and development.

Among the students who appear to have benefited from this holistic approach to education are Abdulla Al Subaiey, Mohamed Khalid Al Thani, and Abdulla Saad Al Kaabi – the three participants from Awsaj Academy who claimed third prize for their research in the competition.

As part of the group’s preparations for the event, the three students experimented with various levels of lighting to produce the largest amount of lettuce day and night over the course of the academic year. They then presented their research findings at Awsaj Academy’s annual Environmental Fair, and afterwards they participated in the Seventh National Student Scientific Research Competition.
Delighted with his team’s recognition, Al Kaabi said: “This research started as a school assignment and I did not expect to win this prize because I thought the project had already been done in Doha. It turned out that our research was the first of its kind in using LED lighting in agriculture.

“Of course, winning this prize has encouraged me to conduct more research in the future. I highly encourage other young people to focus on scientific research and to dedicate their time to learning.”

Awsaj Academy is the only school of its kind in Qatar. Proving that education is a journey for everyone, Awsaj Academy focuses on getting the best out of children with learning challenges by focusing on their areas of aptitude.

In recent times, Awsaj Academy has looked to further develop its students’ love of research and learning by hosting an honorary awards ceremony, in conjunction with Oryx GTL, to celebrate the impressive academic achievements of seven of its students in appreciation of their commitment and academic success.

Dr Donald Francis, High School Principal, Awsaj Academy, commented on its link-up with Oryx GTL by saying: “We have a partnership with Oryx GTL and they sponsor scientific research at Awsaj Academy. So, all the students in the high school and middle school have the opportunity to put together research projects where they have the opportunity to find solutions for environmental challenges facing Qatar and the environment. We have organized important competitions for a couple of years and brought in high-profile judges.

“Our aim is to get our students to learn problem solving and engineering solutions for some of the challenges we might face in the present and the future. Students with learning challenges respond very well to hands-on learning. Through this, we aim to get our students to believe in themselves enough to compete and think with the best students in Doha.”