The fifth annual United Arab Emirates (UAE) Innovation Challenge — in which teams of students in the UAE compete and are judged on different aspects of flying their unmanned autonomous vehicles — was the largest yet. More than 100 students comprising 15 teams representing five Emirates competed this year. Also, this year, more than 30 percent of the participants were female — a significant leap from when the competition began in 2011.
Northrop Grumman, in collaboration with the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments (ADASI) launched the flying competition in 2011, reinforcing a “learning by doing” philosophy to HCT students. The program gives the students the opportunity to design, build and fly unmanned aircraft under the guidance of Northrop Grumman mentors, who traveled to HCT campuses in the UAE in the months before the competition to assist each team prepare for this year’s competition on April 21 and 22 at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
“Overall, I think it’s a great story about US/UAE partnership, global aerospace growth and nations working together to further STEM education (via a super relevant subject – unmanned aircraft),” a Northrop Grumman spokesperson told Homeland Security Today. “It’s also just fun. The students are basically taught an aerospace engineering curriculum in a few months’ time. Oh, and the new US Ambassador to the UAE, Barbara Leaf, stopped by on one of the flying days!”
During the competition, each of the participating teams will be evaluated based on an oral presentation about the design and build of their unmanned aircraft – which counts for 45 percent of the score — as well as on the flight of each team’s aircraft. The flying competitions involves each team having to complete a “pipeline surveillance” mission and then land in a specified location.
With a record number of 15 participating teams, the 2015 Innovation Challenge reflected a growing interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the UAE, according to Northrop Grumman. The teams, each consisting of up to seven male or female students represent the HCT campuses in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Fujairah, Madinat Zayed, Ras Al Khaimah, Ruwais and Sharjah. There are also two teams from the Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College, which is competing for the second year.
This year’s winners were:
- 1st place: HCT Fujairah Men’s College "Gladiators.” The Fujairah team also won last year.
- 2nd place: HCT Dubai Men’s College "Emirates Robotics;"
- 3rd place: HCT Dubai Men’s College "Aviators."
The winners receive a trip to the United States where they will tour Northrop Grumman facilities and educational institutions to further advance their STEM knowledge. The second place team will receive a ADASI-sponsored educational trip to Europe.
“Northrop Grumman is committed to the advancement of STEM education in the UAE. Innovation Challenge remains an excellent platform for this, and we are proud to see its growth each year,” said Doug Raaberg, chief executive of Northrop Grumman UAE. “This is a unique opportunity for the UAE’s young men and women to explore new career paths, which will ultimately enhance the UAE’s global competitiveness. We are grateful for the enthusiasm and dedication of HCT and ADASI in helping to drive this forward.”
“ADASI is proud to be part of the UAE Innovation Challenge competition once again this year alongside HTC and Northrop Grumman,” added ADASI CEO Ali Al Yafei. “This competition presents a professional platform for fostering innovation by enabling engineering students to showcase their capabilities and achievements onthe ground. We will continue to encourage our youth to explore new opportunities through the innovative and critical challenges that will be presented to them.”
Dr. Abdullatif Al Shamsi, vice chancellor of HCT, “confirmed that this competition is a valuable opportunity for students to expand their horizons in applied sciences and technology and improve learning, thus encouraging them to become scientists, engineers and inventors of the future,” said a Northrop Grumman statement. “Al Shamsi stated that the HCTis making intensive efforts towards teaching students methods of innovation, creativity and design in various fields and industries.”
Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments is the first UAE Company to offer clients a comprehensive range of services to cover all types of autonomous systems. ADASI offers holistic solutions, starting with joint analysis of end-users’ needs, through formalization of their requirements, to equipment selection and procurement. ADASI also offers product or system design, development, testing and commissioning of localized subsystems and systems, and other engineering solutions, as well as training of customer teams, operational support and systems maintenance.