(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) When 14-year-old Sulaf Ali and her teammate Dania Safa, 15, students of Al Zouhour Private School, realised that they have the opportunity to invent a device that could help paediatric cancer patients, they weren't going to let it pass.
The girls with strong ambition to become future scientists said: "We want to invent a robot that reads out stories to paediatric cancer patients. And we want to invent one that reminds them to take medicines or even one that can detect the disease in the early stages. The opportunities are limitless."
The students, along with their friends', were speaking on the sidelines of the launch of 'Ana-vation School Championship, an inter-school competition of 150 students from 15 schools.
Ana-vation; a mix of the words "Ana" and "innovation", is a one-of-a-kind initiative that raises awareness through fun and educational activities. It is aimed at inspiring future researchers, doctors and engineers with innovative DIY robotic kits which highlights the importance of early detection of childhood cancer, through applying the core S.T.E.A.M. concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths). The campaign will be implemented throughout four months till May.
The initiative by the Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) UAE was launched to raise awareness about the seven common warning signs of childhood cancer and highlight the importance of early detection, according to Sawsan Jafar, chairperson of the board of directors, FoCP. She said childhood cancer is the fourth most common cause of death among children under 15 years old in industrialised nations.
'Early detection is key'
Sawsan said: "We want to mobilise young children and their interest in science, technology and robotics in a positive manner that will benefit society." She stated that though numbers of children suffering from paediatric cancer in the UAE was relatively low as compared to international statistics, late detection continues to be one of the primary causes of deaths.
"Our earlier campaigns with students were related to food and nutrition. This is the first time we're launching a campaign that focuses on STEAM. We're really looking forward to the outcome," she said.
Furthermore, Dr Qutayba Hamid, dean of College of Medicine, University of Sharjah, shared her personal experience with students: "When I was young, my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. Back then in Iraq, there was a lot of stigmas attached to cancer and asthma." However, he decided back then that he would dedicate his life to finding ways to detect cancer at an early stage.
"I'd decided then that I would become a doctor and a scientist and find ways to detect this disease at an early stage," added Dr Hamid. He predicts a future where mobile phones would eventually be used to detect the disease. "With the Ana-vation campaign, if one child can find a way to detect cancer at an early stage, it would equate to all the work I've put in the 40 years of my career," he added.
'What do students need to do?'
The participating students in each school will work in pairs of two and will be provided with 'Ana-vation' kits. They need to come up with innovative inventions that create childhood cancer awareness and/or identify its early signs and symptoms, using different components and recyclable materials that they can find around their schools and homes.
"The Ana-vation kits include technical components to build a functioning robot such as sensors, motors, solar panel and jump wires, to name a few, therefore, linking childhood cancer with robotics and innovation," said Prasad KGV, spokesperson for Junkbot, a UAE-based company that provides robotic equipment to over 300 schools.
Adeeb Al Balushi, UAE's youngest Emirati inventor also partook in the event. Another student of Dubai Scholars, Bhavishya Sharma (16), said: "Off the top of my head, I want to design something that spreads awareness about cancer using technology."
Dhanusha Gokulan The resident transport and traffic expert, with a touch of music, culture, and youth. I report on everything from rent hikes to traffic jams, from 'most expensive' experiences to tallest buildings, from encouraging upcoming talents to camels laughing. I've been a journalist for seven years and I am ridiculously passionate about music, books, internet memes, Facebook procrastination, and the occasional sport activity (candycrush).
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