Graduating students of Zayed University's Abu Dhabi campus showcased their Capstone projects at the 7th Annual Academic Symposium last week. The top five projects were announced in the presence of Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and President of Zayed University (ZU). They were selected on the basis of the collective knowledge, leadership skills, ambition, motivation, teamwork effort and critical thinking that the students exhibited. The topic's relevance to the UAE was also taken into consideration.

"Today, we will share students' accomplishments and honour their enthusiasm, discipline, and hard work. I always expect ZU students to be high achievers, so I expect their Capstone projects to reflect the values and skills of leadership, critical thinking and independent learning," said Shaikh Nahyan.

First prize winner

Sarra Hesham Al Hasani, 22, was awarded for the best project of the year. Sarra graduated last January in natural science and public health from the College of Arts and Science. Her project involved studying forms of bacteria found in sea water and using the samples she collected from the beaches of Abu Dhabi to test for contamination.

"One of the side-effects of population growth in coastal areas is that a large amount of untreated sewage ends up in the ocean. This form of pollution is probably responsible for more human deaths worldwide than any other type of pollution. In addition, the increasing number of industrial facilities near Abu Dhabi's shores adds to the contamination of the beaches," Sarra said.

Sarra undertook a 10-week water monitoring and lab testing project, in which disease-causing microbes were measured in order to protect public health by preventing the outbreak of diseases such as cholera and dysentery, transmitted by these microbes.

The samples collected by Sarra turned out to be positive for salmonella and vibrio bacteria, indicating that more specific microbiological screening should be considered in the UAE.

"I knew Sarra would win this competition; it was well earned," said her mentor, friend and teacher, Fatme Al Anouti, Assistant Professor, Natural Science and Public Health, College of Arts and Sciences, ZU. "The project itself is unique and requires a lot of hard work and Sarra was one of the brightest students in my class. I am really proud of her."

Not only has Sarra graduated with a GPA of more than 3.8, but she has also been granted a scholarship to Leeds University, UK, where she plans to continue her master's in biomedical research. She plans to return to the UAE and work in the field of public health.

Diabetes campaign

Sweet Society Campaign was among the top five projects. It is the joint work of four students who visited three schools and held a diabetes awareness campaign.

"We went to three private schools with two doctors who spoke to students about diabetes, the dangers associated with it and with eating certain foods. We also printed a lot of brochures, T-shirts and caps," said Al Jawahara Al Serkal, a member of the team.

The team was, however, not disappointed at not winning first prize. "It's only fair that Sarra won the prize of honour for this year'. She solely worked hard on her project."

Three students from the College of Business Sciences worked on a project titled Should the UAE Continue its Relationship with the US Dollar? Ashwak Ali made a short speech on behalf of her team members.

"We visited various experts who held different opinions about the UAE currency situation. We studied different currencies and are currently exploring the basket of currency option," said Ashwak.

UAE Traditional Songs was the project of a team of three kindergarten teachers who graduated from the College of Education. "During our internship, we noticed that when we showed children something visual, their learning was more effective. So we decided to focus on the use of the senses and at the same time have our project incorporate our cultural heritage."

Safeya Ali presented the project on behalf of her team. "We chose traditional songs because we believe that the best way to educate children is to start with their cultural background, especially that today, young children grow up playing computer games, so it is rare to find them playing the traditional games or singing the old songs."

Another individual winner was Noora Abdullah Al Mussawi, who graduated from the College of Information Technology. Noora's project, titled Using Multimedia for Developing E-promo Material, involved using Flash MX 2005 to develop electronic portfolios. An e-promo case study was also done on Indian actress Urmila Matondkar.

Well-researched innovative ideas mark student projects. Maysam Ali in Dubai reports
By Maysam Ali

"Tell me more about your project," Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and President of Zayed University, asked one of the Communication and Media Sciences College students, as she presented her Capstone project. Aliah Al Mur proceeded to explain the Fly the Skies and Save Some Lives campaign through which her team raised Dh10,020 for a charity centre in Ajman. She described how her group was involved in encouraging and guiding people on skydiving as part of their academic end-of year project.

"So did you skydive?" he asked her.

Student excellence

As Shaikh Nahyan talked with Alia, the other students stood next to projects they had been working on for months, waiting to explain what they had done.

The projects were presented last week at the 7th Annual Academic Symposium, which was held under the theme Showcasing Students' Excellence at Zayed University, Dubai.

Shaikh Nahyan inaugurated the event and presented two students with the President's Capstone Award, the highest award given to graduating students for creating an innovative and practical project of concern to them or the society.

After the ceremony, he took a tour around the stalls the students had set up and chatted with each team about their projects.

Accompanying Shaikh Nahyan were Ahmad Humaid Al Tayer, Chairman of National Human Resource Development and Employment, Chairman of Emirates Bank Group and Chairman of the Emirates National Development Programme Board of Trustees, as well as Carlos Slim Helu, a prominent Mexican businessman and the second richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine.


Addressing the students in his opening speech, Shaikh Nahyan congratulated them on their achievements. "We are not only interested in developing academic competence. We are also interested in developing critical thinking, independence, global awareness and the ability to deal with a world without borders," he said.

Later speaking to Notes, he said: "These Capstone projects show how students are capable of examining and studying society and its problems through scientific research, investigation, knowledge of different subjects and the ability to reach effective conclusions that contribute to the betterment of society. The projects are successful when they deal with a significant issue and are useful and effective."

Outstanding students from ZU's colleges received the Dean's Capstone Award, the highest award at the college level.

Outstanding ideas

One students who received the Dean's Capstone Award is an education student who spent two months researching how a learning environment can enhance student motivation and understanding of information.

Mouza Salem told Notes: "When teachers learn about students' learning styles, students become motivated and successful."

Other teams from the Education Department chose to focus on the problems students face when studying mathematics.

"A lot of students have problems with maths and it causes them an emotional shock, so they shy away from the subject. We conducted surveys in Ajman, Dubai, Sharjah and Um Al Quwain and summed up the reasons for this anxiety," Najla Al Owais said.

Creativity earns points

Maha Al Afifi and Sumaya Al Hammadi's project earned them jobs at Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications. They created software that tracks data from satellites and presents it in a visual way.

"We created a geographic information system to track satellite communication users. . . . It took us one year to do it and the company is very pleased with our job," said Maha and Sumaya.

Their creativity not only earned them a job, but also recognition and an award from Shaikh Nahyan. "We did not expect to win the President's Capstone Award," said Maha.

Sumaya added: "It is for us, for our family, our university and country."

Well-researched topics

All students, including those who were not awarded, presented well-researched, innovative ideas as part of their projects.

Maitha Al Khaja, a nutrition student, noticed during her internship at Dubai Hospital that many cancer patients refused to eat the meals provided for various reasons. Her observation led her to search for those reasons and devise a type of diet that colon cancer patients could follow more easily.

"I want to research more in the future," Maitha said. "I looked at various studies and I learned how to give colon cancer patients advice on what to eat."

An environmental health student focused on a current challenge that is facing Dubai.

"I studied the relationship between population growth and the capacity of waste water in Dubai from 2000 to 2006," Eman Ahmad told Notes. Eman said in her project that there is an increase in the demand for water in Dubai. "We need to reduce capacity and build a big plant in a remote area to solve this issue."

Hot topics

Hamda Lootah, international studies student, prepared a research paper on the perception of Arabs from the Gulf region in the Western world post 9/11, after analysing two Hollywood movies that were released after 9/11.

Her colleague, Aisha Al Midfa, presented her project to Shaikh Nahyan. She had raised the issue of 'Budoor', or residents without citizenship in the country. "We should find a solution for these people be it through relations with neighbouring countries or naturalising them in the UAE," she told Notes.

Maitha Al Mutawa, PR and advertisement management student, worked with a team of three on a child safety campaign. "The importance of infant seats is usually not highlighted. We researched the issue and discovered that people in the West use it and realise its importance but not us, so we wanted to highlight this issue," she said.

Her group is taking this project further by preparing a national campaign on child safety. The other students are also thinking of ways to take their academic projects onto a national scale by investing more time to make them more comprehensive and effective.

Maha and Sumaya have big plans for their careers. "We plan to develop the software and enable greater access to it, and introduce mobile phones," they said.