Oman Science Festival 2019 showcases robot competitions, hackathons
November 9, 2019 | 8:12 PM
by Times News Service

Oman Science Festival 2019 concluded on Friday evening at Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre. The festival had more than 1,200 participants representing 60 governmental, military and private sector institutions. In addition, over 200 volunteers assisted the activities of the festival, which also saw the participation of international organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the Rolls Royce Foundation.

The festival witnessed about 151,275 visitors who toured around more than 300 events, including pioneering programming and robot competitions, hackathons, drone competitions, scientific performances at the festival’s stage, as well as scientific cinema and 20 interactive corners in diverse areas of science.

On the sidelines of the festival and under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Khalid Al Marhoon, Minister of Civil Service, the Ministry of Education organised the annual ceremony on Thursday to honour excellent students in the cognitive development programme in science, mathematics and concepts of environmental geography for the academic year 2018 – 2019.

A number of ministers, undersecretaries of the ministry, members of the State Council, members of the Shura Council, director-generals of the ministry and of the educational directorates in the governorates, and parents of honored students attended the event.

During the ceremony, Saud Al Balushi, Member of State Council and Chairman of the Main Committee of Oman Science Festival, delivered the Ministry of Education speech and said, “The Ministry continues to modernise and develop the Cognitive Development Programme, since its application in the academic year 2007-2008 until today.”

“It has taken great steps in continuous updating of quality programmes following which students have achieved honourable results at the local and international levels in competitions of innovations, robotics, national and regional Olympics, programming and various hackathons. A few days ago, students achieved thirteen medals in the Gulf Olympics in mathematics, physics and Arabic language competitions.”

He said that students from the Sultanate would participate in the International Olympiad in Mathematics, set to take place in St. Petersburg next summer, for the first time. Students will so participate in the International Chemistry Olympiad for the second time as international observers. “The Ministry will also participate in the Physics Olympiad in order to provide Omani nationals with the opportunity to participate in various regional and international Olympics,” he added.

Al Balushi pointed out that the most important technologies and programmes were applied in the schools of the Sultanate to support innovation in light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

He stated, “Procedural programming is an important entry point for the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution because the programming of artificial intelligence, robot, the Internet of Things, and big data, etc. all rely on it. The OmanTel Programming Olympiad comes as an enhanced aspect of this orientation. The Ministry and the Academy of Programming will coordinate with the Regional Center for International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) on registering Oman in the list of IOI countries soon.”

On the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programmes, he said, “The Ministry has completed the expansion of the STEM OMAN programme implementation, which entered its third consecutive year this year. The expansion comes in partnership with the Public Authority for Privatisation and Partnership, and the British Rolls Royce Foundation. It also comes in adding the remaining 12 schools from the current implementation phase.”

The celebration ceremony included screening of a short film titled “Our Achievements are Tender” and ended with the patron of the ceremony, His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Omar Al Marhoon, Minister of Civil Service, honouring excellent students in the four categories of the Cognitive Development programme.

The Omani Association for Educational Technologies participated in the festival with an interactive show.

Throughout the days of the festival, the Association provided many interactive presentations of educational technologies, including launching the application of safe social networking for school students, and the announcement the Association’s project to Arabise specialised technology to identify difficulties of reading through artificial intelligence.

The Association also offers a workshop on creative design of educational content, and launched the largest open learning platform MOOCs in the Sultanate. It also gives a number of workshops such as Hologram technology workshop, augmented and virtual reality, and Office 365 applications in education.

The last day also included interactive presentations of laboratory techniques.

Mohammed Al Naabi, science lab specialist, said, “The school science labs corner aims to offer interactive experiences that attract children as well as adults. It highlights experiments of blood type, fingerprint and crime scene experiment.

“All these experiments aim to expand students’ perceptions in anticipating and solving problems in scientific methods. The corner also includes experiments on alternative energy and alternative tools used in school laboratories and virtual reality.”

Visitors of the festival also expressed their enjoyment.

Jassim bin Ahmed said, “I was delighted to walk around the diverse corners of the festival and especially the science and space corner was astonishing. I was amazed to find about the small living creatures that we cannot see with the naked eye, their shapes and colours.

“I also learned about many diseases that may affect humans, which necessitates going to the doctor immediately, and how to help the injured in accidents. I learned a lot about space and scientific trips. I hope in the future to be an astronaut and discover different planets.”

Mohammed Al Hinai explained, “The festival teaches children a lot of scientific information in a fun way. It provides them with ideas that make their future bright, and I am very proud of what this festival has to offer in the form of scientific innovations to serve the community.

“I wish to have such events in many Wilayats of the Sultanate in order to be inclusive of all children of all ages.”

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