Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), the organiser of the FIRST Global DXB Challenge, held a special reception for the participating teams and their mentors on the first day of the global event. The participants took to the stage to relate their experiences and inspirational stories that reflect their passion for science.
Being held for the first time outside the Americas, the FIRST Global DXB Challenge, taking place from 24-27 October at the Festival Arena in Dubai, has brought together more than 1,500 youth from over 190 countries to collaborate, create and compete for a better future.
Khalfan Juma Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, welcomed the participants. He stressed the importance of the championship in encouraging youth to innovate and contribute to developing solutions for a better future. He said: “Robotics is emerging as a major field in which the world's largest economies are seeking to raise their competitiveness. The UAE's interest in this field stems from the economic and scientific opportunities linked to the future of robots in all aspects of life. We have several initiatives launched in relation to this field such as the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good, which was launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dubai Future Foundation, during the third World Government Summit in February 2015. The Award was one of the initiatives of the International Council on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, which was announced in cooperation with the World Economic Forum during the annual meetings of the Global Future Councils hosted by the UAE. Today, on the occasion of the First Global DXB Challenge, we affirm that we will continue on the path of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and support the youth in our country and region to help them create a better future. On the first day we saw a strong commitment from the participating youth, which gives us confidence that our future is bright.”
Abdulaziz Al Jaziri, Deputy CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, said: “It is indeed gratifying to see young people from all over the world coming together to create a better future for humanity using advanced technologies, especially in critical fields like the environment. Our focus on innovation is aligned with the directives of the UAE and its National Innovation Strategy which was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which aims to make the UAE one of the most innovative countries in the world by 2021 and the capital of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Senior Director of Government Affairs at Qualcomm Elizabeth Migwalla expressed her happiness at joining the third edition of the global event held in Dubai. She said the event comes at a time when the world is heading towards the adoption of 5G technology, which is expected to spur a new era of innovation.
“This new era will not only be led by companies and organisations like the ones in this room, but also by this next generation of young inventors, some of whom you will meet over the course of the next few days,” she said. “As a global company committed to innovation, we believe that helping to support the world’s next generation of innovators and increasing access to STEM education is critical. That is why we invest in programs like FIRST Global to help inspire these young minds who will someday help invent the technology the world loves and needs,” Migwalla added.
Migwalla commended the efforts being made in the UAE to establish a national culture that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship through partnerships between the public, private and media sectors.
“Hosting this event in Dubai is indeed appropriate, in view of the UAE National Innovation Strategy, which aims to make the UAE one of the most innovative nations in the world within seven years. We note that one of the tracks of the strategy is focused on preparing individuals with highly innovative skills by concentrating on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including the creation of educational material for schools and universities,” Migwalla added.
Also speaking at the reception was Founding Member, FIRST Global and CEO of XPrize Foundation Anousheh Ansari, who introduced the stories of each participant on stage. She described the event as a platform that inspires excellence and creativity among youth.
“FIRST Global is developing waves of impact – building skills in young people to ensure an improved quality of life for all and generating increased respect and understanding among all peoples. In the three short years since it was founded, FIRST Global has inspired thousands of students in over 190 countries, to pursue science, technology engineering and math,” she said.
She added that FIRST Global has created a worldwide movement in which the ripple of individual effort and commitment grows to become a wave of common good. “When a young person enters any field, they want to believe they will be successful – and one of the best ways to reinforce that belief is to let them see other people who are like them achieve success. We are sure that there are lots of children in the UAE who want to follow in the footsteps of Hazza AlMansouri, who this month completed a landmark space mission to the International Space Station!”
Ansari had also highlighted that the 2019 challenge includes a diverse group of talented mentors who serve as role models. Over 37% of students participating in FIRST Global are girls, and several teams are entirely comprised of young women.
One of those all-girls teams, the Afghan Dreamers, made headlines for being denied visas to attend the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge in Washington, D.C. The team had also faced several other obstacles that forced some of them to withdraw from the challenge. However, the team ended up winning a silver medal for Courageous Achievement in the first edition of the championship, which took place in Washington, D.C in 2017.
The event also showcased other inspirational stories from teams who had faced many challenges but managed to overcome them through their passion for science and improving their communities.
Another team called Team Honduras, saw mentor Alan Ostrow, who is also a teacher at Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, share his story as the team mentor at the inaugural edition of the championship held in 2017. Ostrow praised his team’s ability to innovate and create despite the dire conditions in Camasca, Honduras and limited education opportunities.
Team Albania also took part in sharing their journey participating at the event. Team member Dea Rrozhani highlighted how FIRST Global has been a turning point in her life. “From the moment I joined, I understood that I was part of something bigger than just a robotics competition. Last year in Mexico City, I found it fascinating how we met amazing young people from around the world, and we bonded in the blink of an eye. During the Challenge we were paired with and competed against other FIRST Global students. We learned a lot from teams whose robots performed better than ours and celebrated with our partners when we won,” she said.
Meanwhile, Team South Africa mentor Mikhaeel Reddy said the team’s goal is “to teach students all over South Africa about robotics and the important principles of FIRST Global, like gracious professionalism and cooperation, which is the display of kindness and respect in the face of competition.”