Saudi Students Gather STEAM during Three-Day Innovation Challenge


For the seventh time, hundreds of Saudi Arabian undergraduate students gathered together for a three-day challenge to solve major issues in city development and sustainability. This year’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) Innovation Challenge focused on the following areas: the environment, cybersecurity and smarter living.

Hosted by the Innovation and Economic Development team at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Jeddah, the 304 participants split into 48 teams in May to start brainstorming ideas. Students represented 20 universities from across Saudi Arabia and 59 percent of these participants were women. Northrop Grumman served as an event sponsor, demonstrating the company’s commitment to encouraging Saudi student interest in STEAM-related fields. Paul Casey, a business development director based in Northrop Grumman’s UAE office, served as a judge during the finals. “The STEAM Challenge was incredibly inspiring,” said Casey. “The energy and enthusiasm of the students was infectious and bodes well for a very bright future for the Kingdom.

”This year’s STEAM Innovation Challenge served as a great opportunity for students to collaborate with their peers from other universities while honing teambuilding skills. Walid Abukhaled, Northrop Grumman chief executive for the Middle East, noted, “It was amazing to see a record amount of student participation for this event.” Each student team worked together to define their assigned problem, research market conditions, generate an idea, design a presentation about it and then pitch it to the panel of judges. The winning team, iCare, developed a bracelet to monitor pilgrims’ vitals and report accidents to healthcare providers for a better Hajj experience. The second-place team, Cure, developed a solution to incentivize collection of unused household medications to distribute to relief organizations. Third-place team, EHFADHHA, worked on demand prediction software for food retailers.

The excitement of the Challenge was evident, from positive participant feedback to the incredibly high level of social media engagement. The hashtag #KAUSTSTEAM was a trending topic on Twitter throughout the weekend of the Challenge, with more than 1,000 tweets. Organizers have already registered 500+ Saudi undergraduates interested in attending the next STEAM Innovation Challenge.

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