Hayfa Al-Abdulla, Innovation Director at Qatar Science & Technology Park, on her experience as a guest judge on the edutainment show, and the show’s impact as a thriving innovation ecosystem
I had the opportunity to fulfill a personal dream of mine this year –– to take part in Stars of Science Season 12 as a guest member of the esteemed jury, working alongside Professor Fouad Mrad, Professor Abdelhamid El-Zoheiry, and Dr. Khalid Al-Ali.
An innovation experience unlike any other, the Qatar Foundation (QF) edutainment show takes full advantage of the television platform. Every year, contestants defend their inventions on the world’s stage. Budding entrepreneurs and families alike pick their favorite inventor and cast their vote in a competition that decides the top Arab innovator for that season.
It is this thrilling combination that continues to hold my excitement, leading me to tune in whenever I can and follow the innovation journeys of promising young Arab minds.. Even after working within the dynamic innovation landscape in Qatar and throughout this region for many years, the show’s youthful energy continues to captivate me. It also excites me to witness so many young Arab women compete in this show, demonstrating the impact of women in science, and shattering the stereotype of innovation as a male-dominated environment.
I am grateful for the opportunity to play a role on this year’s edition of Stars of Science. The experience granted me a deeper appreciation for the mountain of work that the jury and the Stars of Science production team undertake to produce the show year after year.
Engaging with the contestants in this unique setting showed the benefits of the show’s intense elimination process. The spontaneous nature of having them defend their ideas in front of the panel added to a sense of urgency. As a jury member, I did not overthink –– I spoke the truth, heard what the contestant had to say, and shared my observations with the rest of the panel.
In addition to their immense wealth of specialist knowledge, the jury represented a diversity of perspectives from across the region. Professor Fouad Mrad and Professor Abdelhamid El-Zoheiry hailed from Lebanon and Egypt respectively, while Dr. Khalid Al-Ali and I represented Qatar. The healthy variety of disciplines and nationalities infused our discussions with an open-minded point of view –– essential to any innovation process.
I admired the participants of Season 12 for sharing a beautiful spirit, even while working on their inventions under the specter of the COVID-19 pandemic. While logistical issues dogged them throughout the season, they fostered lasting relationships and built a tight-knit community. I felt privileged to witness their resilience firsthand, knowing that they remained committed to realizing their ideas.
Watching Sarah Aboerjaib, a Kuwaiti inventor, and Eiman Al-Hamad, a fellow Qatari, represent Arab women this season provided another personal highlight. Creators of the Fractured Bone Optical Scanner and the Arabic Conversation Fraud Detection program respectively, they are the latest in a long line of Arab women that brought their innovation and entrepreneurship talents to Stars of Science over the past 12 years.
Female alumni of the show continue to impact communities in the Arab region and beyond. For example, Dr. Nour Majbour, the Syrian Season 10 finalist, just recently won an innovation award from QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University for her work on a novel COVID-19 testing kit.
I am certain that Stars of Science – through this season, along with the stories of how its alumni have contributed to the fight against COVID-19 –– continues to inspire the Arab youth. It shows that innovation does not only happen in Silicon Valley. Bright minds from our communities develop exciting solutions here in Qatar and the region.
My participation not only realized a personal dream. It also represented the next step in Qatar Science & Technology Park’s (QSTP) growing role in overseeing Stars of Science. The show will sit within our ‘mindset’ category of programs, which also includes the Arab Innovation Academy.
Part of our mission at QSTP is instilling the right mentality and values in aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators, supporting their personal development as much as the progress of their inventions. The show gives direction and inspiration to the next generation of Arab scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, showing them all the sacrifice and struggle that the innovation process entails.
With our values so closely aligned, my role as guest judge solidified the potential that exists in our continued partnership. During my time on the show, I highlighted how QSTP supports talented Arab entrepreneurs, especially women, in the region while underlining how we could continue assisting the participants in their innovation journeys after they leave the show.
My successful experience bodes well for Stars of Science’s new dynamic with QSTP. I am thankful to the Stars of Science team for welcoming me onto the show and assisting me through this wonderful journey. Together, we continue to explore new approaches and ideas toward nurturing and strengthening the innovation ecosystem in Qatar and the Arab world.