May 2014 saw middle-school students (aged 11 to 15) from 10 schools in Qatar compete in a unique science event called the Science Challenge. Organised by QNRF and the Supreme Education Council (SEC), and held at the Hamad bin Khalifa University Student Centre, the students were challenged to construct a bridge using the scientific principles they had learned in the classroom. They were given guidance, resources, and training, and encouraged to use strategies such as teamwork and creativity when building their innovative structures.
The judging panel consisted of university faculty members, QNRF Program Managers and science experts from the SEC. Dr Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, Executive Director, QNRF, said “We believe this new educational competition will help us further promote science and research at an early age, by demonstrating to young people that performing creative science experiments can be interesting as well as fun. We are extremely encouraged by the success of our Science Challenge pilot program, and we look forward to implementing this valuable event in the school calendar for years to come.”
Teams worked to a strict time limit, after which the fruits of their work – their bridges – were each subjected to destruction testing to determine their loading capacity. The judging panel recognised teams from Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Secondary School for Boys, Fatima Alzahra Preparatory Independent School for Girls and Al Bayan Secondary School for Girls for displaying the most ambition and skill in building their science projects. This competition not only saw the building of physical bridges, but also bridged a gap between fun and science that discourages many children from furthering their scientific education. Ultimately, all the participants went home winners, having learnt something new about science, having worked in timed environments, and having experienced teamwork.
Fatima Al Rashid, Head of the Science Department, Curriculum Standards Offi¬ce, SEC, said “It has been a great opportunity for the SEC to work with QNRF in developing and organising this event. We feel it is important for pupils to use the theoretical work they have learnt by applying it in a practical context. We hope this pilot event will pave the way for more Science Challenges to take place for different grades in the future.”
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