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Heriot-Watt Dubai University Engineering Team Wins Top Prize for Innovative ‘FireOut’ System

[This is sponsored content produced under Al-Fanar Media’s Spotlight service.]

An engineering team from Heriot-Watt University Dubai has won a cash prize and a 2022 National James Dyson Award for their “FireOut” system for tackling bushfires. James Dyson is a billionaire British inventor and industrial designer whose international student design award challenges young people “to design something that solves a problem.”

The five Heriot-Watt Dubai engineering students, who are from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Egypt, called their system “FireOut.” They noted that regions that suffer from bushfires in the dry season tend to receive heavy rainfall in the wet season, so they designed a rainwater storage system. Using sensor cameras and a communications system, their invention can automatically start bringing fires under control before the first responders arrive, saving time, life and land. Once the fire is brought under control, the pumps can be closed, ready for the towers to collect rainwater again.

Existing technologies only detect wildfires and wait for the first responders to arrive. The firefighters often only have a limited water supply, which can result in the fire burning longer.

The “FireOut” team won a cash prize of 24,000 United Arab Emirates dirhams (about $6,500) which can be used towards the next phase of their invention’s development.

Dr. Suaad Al Shamsi, the first female Emirati aircraft engineer and one of the local James Dyson Award judges, said: “We were fascinated by the FireOut invention. All the judges credited how the students identified a pressing current day problem and designed a potential solution.”

In a joint statement, the team members explained that they had been horrified by the devastating wildfires they had seen over the last few years in places like Australia. “The 2019-2020 bushfires caused tremendous damage. This motivated us to develop a system capable of detecting and controlling fires at early stages.”

The team members are Tasneem Nawar, a fourth-year chemical engineering student from Egypt, Eman Rashid a fourth-year mechanical and energy engineering student from Pakistan, Zahid Rehman, a  fourth-year automotive engineering student from Bangladesh, Deenah Sabaahat, a third-year electrical and electronic engineering student, and Zahrah Tungekar, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student both from India. The group said it was exciting to see how the project made their different specialities come together seamlessly.

About Heriot-Watt Dubai

Heriot-Watt University, from the Scottish capital Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, set up its Dubai campus in 2005 with 120 students. It later became the first foreign campus in Dubai’s International Academic City and last year took up nearly 220,000 square feet of premises over six floors in Dubai Knowledge Park. Heriot-Watt Dubai University now has nearly 4,000 students.

There are deliberately no huge traditional lecture theatres in the new premises but medium sized flexible classrooms that can easily be refigured. One-third of the classrooms are called “pod rooms” where up to eight students sit around their screens and a table for interactive, problem-based teaching.

In the United Kingdom Heriot-Watt University is best known for the sciences, engineering and town planning (as its predecessor Edinburgh School of Art, it established the world’s first mechanics institute in 1821).

Heriot-Watt Dubai’s new Provost, Professor Heather McGregor, told Al-Fanar Media that the same skills applied at  the Dubai campus. “More importantly we have the reputation of being the top U.K. university in Dubai, evidenced by the 5 star KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority) rating we have received for three years.”

Professor McGregor, who was previously the executive dean of Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh Business School, said Heriot-Watt Dubai’s portfolio “is constantly updated to reflect the needs of the market and the requirements of employers. For example, we launched programmes such as MSc Robotics, MSc Applied Accounting and MSc digital leadership because of the demand we are witnessing in the job market.”

Apart from the original University in Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt has a campus in Malaysia as well as Dubai, and because courses are structured the same way, students can switch universities and do a year in a different country. Professor McGregor says most students who opt for the “Go Global” programme are resident in the United Arab Emirates, rather than international students who have come to Dubai from other countries. The greatest number of transfers are to the Edinburgh campus, where the most popular courses are bachelor’s degrees in business administration, international business management, and computer science and engineering. Those who transfer to the U.K. get a 20 percent discount on their annual fees.

The transfer option is also open to postgraduate students, but since most of them already have jobs they are not so mobile and fewer take advantage of the opportunity. However Professor McGregor said an increasing number of students from Edinburgh were choosing to do a year in Dubai as the city becomes an increasingly popular destination with many local initiatives, such as long-term residence visas for international students.

Heriot-Watt Dubai hosts students from about 90 countries. Indians, Pakistanis, Russians, Egyptians and Kazakhs are the most numerous, but there are increasing numbers from China, Nigeria, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and Sudan.

Professor McGregor, who is an experienced broadcaster and journalist (she wrote for the United Kingdom’s “Financial Times” newspaper for 17 years), founded the Taylor Bennett Foundation, a United Kingdom-based charity that encourages students from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to take up a career in communications.

She is also a founding member of the steering committee of the 30% Club to increase the number of women at senior levels in publicly listed companies. In 2015 she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s birthday honours list for her services to business, especially diversity in the workplace.

Professor McGregor has only just taken up her new role at Heriot-Watt University, but asked what she would like to be remembered for, she said that Heriot-Watt was founded 200 years ago to give skills to the workforce of Edinburgh.

“I have helped to develop for instance an MBA programme that we deliver into a refugee camp in Lebanon. I would love to think that the work I am doing now would continue for another 200 years.”

This is a sponsored Al-Fanar Media story.


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