Visitors looking at the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, a space suit that provides environmental protecton, mobility, life support and communications for astronauts outside the spacecraft, at the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre's Science event in Dubai on Monday 21 January 2019. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Two students have each secured a Dh400,000 scholarship to study at Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) after winning its ‘Scholarship Challenge’ to design a game suitable for astronauts to play during their journey to Mars.

Emirati student Fatima Al Bu Saeedi and Jordanian student Mohammad Bassam — both aged 18 — won the scholarship for a four-year Bachelor of Design Degree.

Al Bu Saeedi “designed a creative entertainment-based game around music to help astronauts stay stimulated in space”, DIDI said. Bassam “showcased very complex technical skills and adoption of new software for his submitted challenge”.

Launched earlier this year, the challenge for designing a space game had to promote the physical and mental well-being of future space travellers, enabling them to perform athletic activities, to maintain muscle capacity, bone density as well as cardiovascular health, especially during lengthy space travels.

It can take anywhere from six to eight months to reach Mars, which scientists see as the most probable candidate for a human colony. Last year, billionaire technocrat Elon Musk had said his company SpaceX was building a Mars spaceship that could make its first flight in 2019.

The UAE also has an unmanned Mars mission to send a spacecraft to the Red Plant to study its atmosphere in unprecedented detail.

Dream come true

Reacting to her win, Al Bu Saeedi said: “It is truly my dream to be part of this growing field and support the UAE’s vision in becoming a leading contributor to innovation on the global stage. I am hugely grateful to have the opportunity to study at DIDI. My family really pushed me to choose this institution as it’s very unique and we all feel it is the right place for me to grow in this field.”

Eager to start

Bassam said he is eager to begin his four-year studies after the summer: “DIDI is a very innovative university and I am honoured to have been chosen for this scholarship. There are very few universities in this region which teach in such a unique way and I cannot wait to begin my studies in the fall.”

National epitome

Al Bu Saeedi’s scholarship has been granted by Dubai Holding. Amit Kaushal, Group CEO of Dubai Holding, said: “Designing a space-compliant, tech-focused game for future astronauts requires an immense amount of creativity, patience and attention to detail. Fatima is the epitome of all young Emirati Youth who are destined to contribute to the nation’s vision of becoming a global model for science, design and technology.”

Bassam’s scholarship was granted by Kart Group, whose managing director Mustafa Khamash said: “Kart Group is proud to support DIDI on this scholarship challenge, which applied innovative design thinking and cutting-edge technology to a real-life challenge faced by space astronauts. Nurturing and inspiring the next generation of designers is key to the sustainability of the UAE’s design industry. As a home-grown UAE company, we are thrilled to help young designers fulfil their ambitions.”

Choosing the winners was not easy because of the “impressive” calibre of entries, said Hani Asfour, dean of DIDI. “It is very promising to see such talent here in the UAE, the future professionals who will be able to take up the UAE’s vision around innovation, design and the space project. We are in an exciting time right now as the institution evolves and grows and these are exactly the kinds of students we are attracting,” Asfour said.