Fifty-two finalists were selected from 631 project entries by a jury panel of educational and industry experts at the Eighth UAE Educational IT Challenge 2008 last week. Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), presented the winners with trophies and certificates of participations at an awards ceremony.

The challenge is a bi-annual regional initiative by the Higher Colleges of Technology along with the Ministry of Education held under the patronage of Shaikh Nahyan. It aims to promote innovation in information technology at the school and university level.

Categories for this year's competition included Special Needs, Organisational/Business, E-Commerce, Secondary Schools, Colleges/Universities, UAE Nationals, and Mobile Applications.

More regional submissions
With 58 international entries, this year's challenge marks the most number of regional submissions as compared to the previous years.

Countries represented included Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. More than 500 entries were from the UAE.

"Of the 631 projects submitted, 52 projects have reached the final stage, representing eight per cent of the total number of submissions.

Such a percentage clearly reflects the high standards required by the competition to meet the specific judging criteria related to innovation, community, value, social impact and future," said Mohammad Nasser Al Ganim, chairman of the jury panel.

The official awards ceremony started off with a video showcasing the IT Challenge journey from 2002 to date.
Following the video, Shaikh Nahyan spoke about the importance of promoting modern technologies and congratulated the finalists and winners on their achievement.

"The IT Challenge is built on the premise that information technology fuels educational innovation, and that the continued success of our schools and colleges greatly depends on our ability to forge a broad-based collaboration among higher education, industry, federal and local governments, and everyone who supports our national goal of attaining excellence in education," Shaikh Nahyan said.

The projects

The aim of the contest was to encourage students and teachers to create projects that used IT to improve teaching in classrooms. The projects had to be developed within the GCC countries.

The entries submitted covered topics such as teaching applications, communication tools, teaching people with special needs, road safety, tourism and the environment, the history of the UAE, mobile applications and online courses.

Due to the high quality of projects submitted this year, Al Ganim announced that some of the projects would be sponsored.

"The highly-qualified jury members exercised the utmost level of professionalism and dedication in choosing the finalists for this year's competition.

To this end, I extend my deepest appreciation to the jury for their hard work and dedication in reviewing all the projects submitted to reach the chosen finalists," Al Ganim said.

Dr Willy Chiu, vice-president of High Performance On Demand Solutions (HiPODS) at IBM Software Group Strategy, spoke to the audience about an upcoming project called Blue Cloud, in which the company is collaborating with Google to provide IT services.

The winners

- Best UAE National Teacher Project
- Qurtas v2.2 (Banknotes Database) — Al Maarif Secondary School, Sharjah
Mohammad Ali Al Housani

- Best UAE National Student Project
- A Man-in-the-Middle Attack Tool for Switched Networks – College of Information Technology, UAE University, Al Ain
Muna Muneer Otaibi
Wadha Rashid Tamimin

Best Organisational Project
- Enhanced Learning and Training Centre, HP Advanced Technology Lab — Abu Dhabi Men's College, Abu Dhabi
Mohammad Arif Ameen
Nafith Salama
Farrukh Zaheer
Sanjeev Ananth
Mohammad Ali Mohammad Eid Al Dahham Al Mansouri
Imran Abdullah Hassan Abdullah Al Marzouqi
Naser Mohammad Ahmad Sultan Al Shaikh

- Best E-Commerce Project
Oman Government Portal — Majan College, Oman
Maha Mohammad Abdullah Al Beloushi

- Best Mobile Applications Project
- Smart Office System with Mobile Phone Control – Preston University, Ajman
Zainab Raheed

- Best College or University Teacher Project
- Learning 2.0 — Zayed University, Dubai
Janet Martin

- Best Secondary Teacher Project
- Qurtas v2.2 (Banknotes Database) – Al Maarif Secondary School, Dubai
Mohammad Ali Al Housani
- Al Reem and That Al Salassel Web Cam Community Link - That Al Salassel, Al Ain
Aisha Kamis Salem Aldhari

- Best College or University Student Project
- i-College (An Online College System) — Higher College of Technology, Muscat, Oman
Jafer Abdul Rahman
Jafer Batcho Al Zidjali

- A Man-in-the-Middle Attack Tool for Switched Networks – College of Information Technology, UAE University, Al Ain
Muna Muneer Otaibi
Wadha Rashid Tamimi

- Best Secondary Student Project
- Personal Website to Teach Robotics, Photography and Karate, Aswath – Indian School Al Ghubra (ISG), Oman
Aswath Sridhar
Windows Forums, Benna and Hadi – Al Majd Indian School, Dubai
Benna Iqbal
Hadi Mohammad

- Mind Map – Sukainah Bint Al Hussain Secondary School, Dubai
Hajar Abdul Rahman Al Ansari
Abeer Mohammad Al Janahi