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Qatar University team wins Microsoft’s tech contest

CATHERINE W GICHUKI

DOHA A PROJECT by a team of four female students from Qatar University (QU) has won the Qatar Imagine Cup 2013, the most prestigious student technology competition which brings together students from all over the world.

The team ‘QSpark’ with their project called ‘Artouch came first among five competing teams with the innovative project that provides a way to virtually interact with exhibits in museums through the use of Microsoft’s Kinect sensor.

The third year students will represent Qatar in the worldwide finals scheduled to be held in St Petersburg, Russia, in July for an opportunity to win over $300,000 in prizes.

The four students aged between 20 and 21 years are Latifa Talal al Naimi, Amna Khalid al Kaabi and Rahma Saleh Ali, who are studying Computer Science, and Mariam Ali Bahameish, studying Computer Engineering.

Latifa said, “We are very proud because we have been working for a long time. We eagerly await the integration of the system in museums.” The competition showcased the innovative ideas of five teams comprising two from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, two from QU and one from Texas A &M University in Qatar.

The teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges, which included industry experts from Microsoft, Qapco, Emirates Group, ictQatar and Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI). The contest was hosted by Khalid Aboujassoum, winner of Qatar Foundations’ Stars of Science 2012.

Other projects presented by the participating teams included technologies aimed to help disabled citizens, manage airport queues and minimise loss of luggage and reduce food waste.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Microsoft Qatar Country Manager Naim Yazbeck said this has been the 11th year that Microsoft created the Imagine Cup with the idea to promote innovative thinking among students. This was the second time that the competition was held in Qatar.

He said, “We are so excited that the winning team comprises only female students. This aligns with Qatar’s vision on women empowerment. Qatar’s talented students have a strong track record at Imagine Cup and will continue to make the country proud in St Petersburg this year. We believe in the ability of technology to make a difference in our world.” Yazbeck added that participating in the finals of the contest will give students a chance to share their ideas in a global forum of the best young programmers, technologists and designers in the world.

QSpark Mentor Dr Osama Halabi said that the innovation, if adopted, will provide an interactive approach for visitors to museums.

“Visitors are not allowed to touch the artifact in museums but this technology will provide visitors an interactive journey.

It will help the visitors to feel like they touch the items through 3D graphics,” he said.

Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco) was the platinum sponsor of the contest.

Qapco’s Vice-Chairman and CEO Dr Mohamed al Mulla said, “The performance by these students in their third year shows that we have talented engineers to fill different positions in the future. It has been impressive to see the scope and the innovation displayed by all the teams this year.”

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