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Mars beckons

September 23 - 29, 2020
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Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora




Gulf Weekly Mars beckons

TELESCOPIC twins Malak and Yousif Ebrahim have won the top prize in the highly-competitive NSSA Design-a-colony-on-Mars competition.

The Bahraini brother-and-sister duo designed a colony for 100 adventurers for the competition, integrating power sources, an aquaponics farm, science labs, entertainment areas, hospital, library and sleeping pods.

The nine-year-olds, who are Year Four students at the British School of Bahrain. told GulfWeekly: “After our mum told us about the competition, it took us about two weeks to design and create a representational model of our colony.

“Together, we researched challenges that colonists are likely to face on the planet and brainstormed how we can best plan for these. For example, Mars only has a third of the gravitational pull that Earth does, which, in the long term, can be bad for muscles and bones. So we decided to create a gym where the colonists can maintain their physical health.”

After they came up with an overall plan, Malak took on the task of creating rooms and wind turbines, while Yousif worked on the energy and water sources, aided by YouTube videos and encyclopaedias.

Latifa Al Khalifa, co-founder of Clever Play, which helped organise the competition, said: “The delightful sister-brother team made an impact by displaying collaborative creativity.

“I think the strongest element of their project was in how they combined science and engineering practices with common sense health and safety requirements to craft a functional human abode.

Their prototype was reflective of a playful and smart approach to the task at hand. It was fun to watch.”

The scientific siblings’ fascination with the stars began two years ago when they watched a rocket take off, over livestream. Since then, they have watched countless National Geographic documentaries about space, in addition to reading Destination Space: Living on Other Planets by Loredana Cunti and Dave Williams.

They have also been sharpening their coding skills with their ‘micro:bit’ kits, which trains students on the use of Python and Scratch to create robots and other hardware-based projects.

Unsurprisingly, computer science and mathematics are their favourite subjects at school, disciplines which constantly make them test and then re-test their assumptions and deductions of the world around them.

When asked what they would change if they were to redo their project, Malak had a quick response: “We would like to add some more antennas, and perhaps create more space for colonists to sleep.”

They are consistently encouraged and helped by their mother, Nahla Salim, and father, Ahmed Ebrahim, who works for Microsoft in the EdTech division.

Yousif and Malak both hope to become astronauts one day, and explore the craters and mountains of Mars, while working with other intelligent and creative colonists to create a new abode on the planet.

The Design-a-colony-on-Mars competition, organised by NSSA and Clever Play, was open to Bahraini students aged seven to 12 years old and received more than 40 entries.

Second place was taken by Abdulla Bucheeri and third place went to Lulwa Alhooti. Abdulla created a virtual exploreable version of his entire colony on popular sandbox-style video game Minecraft.







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