Twenty-eight young Palestinian students are set to travel to the US for a 10-day trip that will include a visit to NASA headquarters in Florida. The trip is the grand prize for the 12th annual Tech Talent competition, a science competition for students from across the Palestinian territories.
The competition was divided into several categories, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, biology, and biochemistry. The 28 winners were winnowed down from 14,000 competitors, 190 of whom reached the finals.
Ahmad Hashem Ghosheh of eastern Jerusalem was one of the winners for his project, which can predict epileptic seizures approximately 15 minutes before they occur.
He told The Media Line that since entering the competition, he has devoted himself almost entirely to schoolwork and working on his invention.
“It feels amazing, honestly,” he said. “The last six months were so hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
The young inventor is already in touch with a doctor in the US to help improve his project, and he has plans for continued work in the field.
“Hopefully I continue working and get my undergrad in medical engineering, inshallah, and I just help humanity,” Ghosheh said, using the common Arabic phrase for “God willing.”
Tenth-grade student Yara Sa’ad from Ramallah developed an app that can help patients connect with doctors. She was inspired to create the app after watching her parents struggle to access medical care.
“This app provides special features,” Sa’ad told The Media Line. “It helps you book doctors’ appointments, and you can find more information about doctors available in your area, and also save your medical history really easily, which makes it accessible for doctors to find more about your health.”
Fifteen-year-old Lamar Jabr invented an app to help patients with locked-in syndrome better communicate. “Locked-in syndrome is a rare disorder of the nervous system,” she told The Media Line. “People with this syndrome are paralyzed except for muscles controlling eye movement. They may be able to communicate with blinking eye movements.”
The announcement of the winners was held in Ramallah and was attended by US Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr.
“This is an essential partnership to empower the greatest talents and greatest minds of the Palestinian people, and what I have seen today lifted me up not only as an American diplomat but as a friend to the Palestinian people and even as a parent,” Adr told The Media Line. “I wish my own kids could come here and see the projects here today.”
What is the Palestinian Tech Talent competition?
Tech Talent is a project of the Al Nayzak organization, a nonprofit that aims to promote science, engineering, technology, and math studies among Palestinian youth.
For Palestinian-American engineer Aref Husseini, who founded Al Nayzak and serves as its CEO, Tech Talent is a source of pride.
“It’s a great achievement and great honor to see all of these kids coming from different socioeconomic backgrounds including Gaza, east Jerusalem, West Bank, all villages and cities, coming all together to this place to show their innovations, to show their motivation, to show that we are really on a process of building a future for Palestinians,” Husseini told The Media Line.
When it was founded 20 years ago, Al Nayzak had fewer than 60 students studying in an office in Jerusalem. Today, it serves thousands of students each year across eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.
The organization’s mission is to revolutionize the outdated Palestinian approach to education, Hussein said.
“Memorizing content and passing exams—it’s no longer the path that will lead us to new leadership, to economic opportunities, entrepreneurship, and innovation,” he said. He explained that the organization is attempting to look to the wider region and beyond to promote Palestinian technological advancements.
To those who didn’t win the competition, Hussein had a message of consolation—that losing is not the end of the road but the beginning of a new path forward.
“Keep trying,” he said. “This is exactly the message.”