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Rahul Preeth
A picture is worth a thousand words. There aren’t many phrases that better sum up the power of visualisation than this adage.
A tech startup in Qatar is drawing from this phrase and is seeking to radically disrupt the way the young generation learns — by providing them with access to technologies that help them visualise and apply what they learn.
“There is a significant difference between knowing and understanding. To truly understand what you learn, you must apply them,” said Nayef al Ibrahim, the founding partner and CEO of ibTECHar.
From budding entrepreneurs to universities and schools under the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, the startup provides an umbrella of services to facilitate immersive learning by using digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printing and designing.
A turnkey service provider, ibTECHar operates the digital fabrication lab of the Qatar Business Incubation Centre (QBIC). The QBIC Fab Lab is funded by the Qatar Development Bank (QDB) and is designed to provide digital fabrication designing, services and training to entrepreneurs, manufacturing industry professionals and students.
“If you have an idea, you can walk into the lab and come out with a working prototype. The lab will have all the equipment and information to help you build what you have in mind,” Ibrahim said.
In 2014, ibTECHar launched what it calls the Sanea programme. It is aimed at promoting a “culture of making” among the new generation in Qatar.
“Our objective is to shape the next wave of tech entrepreneurship in Qatar and the region,” Ibrahim added.
Over the next four years, ibTEChar launched three offshoots of this programme — the Sanea Competition, the Sanea Bus and the Sanea Camp.
The Sanea competition is designed to take local high school students through the process of making things and challenge them to solve real-world problems by building prototypes.
Sanea bus is a digital mobile fab lab and is designed and equipped with the latest digital fabrication technologies to introduce those aged 6 to 18 to these technologies through hands-on workshops.
Sanea bus is the first digital mobile fab lab in the MENA region to be certified by the global fab network, the Fab Foundation.
The Sanea camp is a seasonal edutainment programme to spur interest in these technologies among children and teenagers.
ibTECHar traces its origin to an experience Ibrahim’s partner and the startup’s founder and chairman, Khalid Aboujassoum, went through in 2012 when he was competing in a television reality show in Qatar.
As an engineering student in Canada, Aboujassoum was struggling to find healthy, home-cooked food. His pursuit of an alternative, alongside a busy schedule, led him to think about a pot that would cook by itself.
When he was back in Qatar, Aboujassoum applied to compete in the Stars of Science — the Arab world’s biggest television reality show.
Aboujassoum emerged the winner of the show in 2012 by prototyping his idea of an automated cooking pot that dispenses various ingredients of a dish at the right time with minimal human intervention.
While the prototype and the seed funding from Stars of Science led to the creation of a smart kitchen robot, Aboujassoum wanted to share the experience he got at the show with the youth in Qatar.
“At the age of 28, Aboujassoum had an idea and he was able to turn that idea into something tangible. He wanted to democratise his experience and that led to the creation of ibTECHar in its current form,” Ibrahim said.
Today, ibTECHar is an exponentially growing startup whose clientele and sponsors include the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Boeing and Es’hailSat.
“Our growth in Qatar is fuelled by the support extended by our stakeholders and the startup ecosystem in Qatar,” Ibrahim said.
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