After the calm came the storm, as two weeks of no departures were followed by three exits in the latest episode of QF’s Stars of Science
Despite COVID-19 casting a shadow on the world, the Stars of Science contestants' resilience was put in the spotlight during one of the fiercest eliminations the show has ever seen. Although the prior two episodes had a sense of calm and relief, this episode brought a wave of tears, shock, and unexpected surprises. The pressure was on to finalize the innovations' design, making the best of the resources and time available.
The power of technology was utilized on all fronts before and during the episode. The contestants received remote support from a design team based in the Netherlands, who helped them finalize their prototypes before being evaluated by the judges. Building on the last episode, Professor Fouad Mrad and Professor Abdelhamid El Zoheiry provided their assessment through video conferencing, while Dr. Khalid Al Ali was joined by Yosouf Al-Salehi, Executive Director of Qatar Science & Technology Park, as a guest jury member in the studio.
Before the eliminations started, Yosouf spoke about the critical role that QSTP plays in working with other companies in Qatar to promote the wider RDI strategy, and about the support it receives from Qatar Foundation's leaders in supporting entrepreneurs. He also highlighted that Education City plays an important role, as many of its graduates initiate leading businesses in the country, especially in technology.
Among the contestants who stood out during this episode was Wadah Malaeb. His chip had already reached optimal levels in turns of functionality, and he focused on producing a continuous design for all 25 chips in terms of size, look, and feel. He also created a special box to place them in; the packaging resembled "a box of chocolates". It was a big hit with the judges, causing even the ever-harsh critic Professor Mrad to say that he would like to gift this box to Yosouf.
Wadah surpassed the judges' questions and defended his rationale behind the chips being single-use due to safeguarding the cells' membranes inside, ensuring they remain clean for testing. He also highlighted that his packaging would help scientists who work under a biosafety cabinet to use it quickly for tests. Wadah also showcased his plan for the future, as he was able to produce a protocol for manufacturing and assembling for future production of these chips, which will help DLOC Biosystems to reach the market faster.
Eiman Al Hamad's design for her innovation Amna was quite distinct in its simplistic yet visually attractive design, and she was able to show that she had an eye for the future, as she had created two plans to enter the market. She would approach the telecommunication companies to incorporate her software or work with the end-user, convincing them to download the software, enabling the building of the program’s database.
However, Professor Mrad quickly noticed that her innovation needs to be up to speed with the industry's advancements. Eiman convinced the judges that she would be working on developing her module and even possibly using a feature that has a latency of 1.5 seconds in her program. Wadah and Eiman received the highest percentages in the audience votes, 36 percent and 39 percent respectively.
Ahmad Fathalla was able to prove himself and rise to the challenges in comparison to the previous episode. After working on four modules, he was finally able to produce a prototype, Joi, that was up to the jury's standards. His innovation was near to the ideal weight of 150 grams. He will also be working on the technological aspects by adapting having one of the cubes serve as a Wi-Fi router and carry out more tests to guarantee that it's up to child safety regulations.
Joining presenter Khalid Al Jumaily in the studio was Dr. Mohamed Zied Chaari, a Stars of Science Season Three alumni who spoke about his incredible journey in joining Qatar Scientific Club and working alongside Rashid Ibrahim, one of the prior jury members. He also discussed the benefits of distance learning and how it has helped his students at Qatar University.
Back in the contest, Jamal Shaktour was fairly confident with his innovation, 2 Resq. He worked extensively to reduce the weight of his prototype, insulating the elements within safely, but Dr. Al Ali and Professor El Zoheiry pointed out that the tubes were not tested for leakage. Professor Mrad pointed out that the placement of the pipes made them exposed. However, Jamal defended his innovation and justified his rationale.
Sarah Aboerjaib's innovation, Scanscope, received mixed reviews from the jury. Although, the majority were impressed with the color, packaging, and name of the innovation. Yosouf and El Zoheiry pointed out a lack of testing, as there is no current percentage for accurate results. Also, Professor Mrad found no protocol for calibration created, which is crucial as the device is optically based.
Mohammad Almogahwi's Easy Brush innovation impressed most of the judges, especially Yosouf, with its unique design and functionality. Mohammad’s invention could cater to different types of consumers, such as those who rely on a caregiver or those unable to produce the circular brushing pattern. However, El Zoheiry found that the duration for the brush's replacement was too long compared to others.
Othman Abu Laban was among the contestants who faced several obstacles with his prototype, as his project was deemed complicated from the start. His product, Syncsafe, had a lot of wires and components which needed to be concealed. He also needed to increase his innovation's resistance while ensuring it is waterproof and soundproof. The finished prototype did not come out as he envisioned.
Although Othman applied the changes, the judges quickly pointed out that the sound levels were not measured, and the future strategy was not clear. But the most brutal of them all was Dr. Mrad, heavily criticizing Othman in terms of his pace in answering the questions. He was unconvinced by Othman's justification for placing "secret" light sensors in the product and found his design not intact.
Azzam Alwan's innovation, BID, was also not well received by the judges, mainly due to Azzam contradicting himself throughout the evaluation. The overall benefit of the prototype, who the end-user was, and how it can advance in the future was not clear, and this was evident when Dr. Mrad pointed out that his application lacks the learning feature, which he described as unacceptable at that stage. Azzam made several promises for future development.
The outcome was that, in a defining triple elimination, Jamal, Azzam, and Othman all failed to qualify. Jamal was shocked, and Azzam felt that the judges misunderstood him. But it all means that just five contestants remain – and the stakes are high with only one episode remaining before the Stars of Science grand finale.