Muhammad Ahsan Nawaz is someone you might call an “engineer.” Only he is 17-years-old and a tenth grade student at the Government Model High School in Vehari, who was in the capital to participate at the Intel National Science Fair 2013, which concluded on Wednesday.
He has a fascination with dissecting electronic circuits and reorganising them to run household applications remotely. His eyes light up when he talks about wireless communications, frequencies and their propagation ranges.
In ninth grade, Nawaz, who also works part-time at a repair shop to support his family, got the idea of using radio waves to control devices. Much like a television remote control or a car unlocking remote, he designed a system that can be used to control electrical devices from a distance using a cell phone.
Nawaz’s science project was one of the four individual grand prize winners. He said he had expected to offer tough competition to the 250 students who competed in the fair, but the realisation of it all was incredible.
“My joy knows no bounds,” said Nawaz said after he received his medal. Two group grand prizes were also awarded and the winners, 10 students altogether, will represent Pakistan at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the US in May.
Haris bin Ashraf from Sheikh Zayed Bin Khalifa School in Karachi also won the individual project grand prize. Ashraf worked on a cost-efficient self-disintegrating eco-friendly plastic bags project.
Isa bin Qasim of the Pak Turk International School and Colleges, Peshawar, and Javeria Nisar, a student at Singhpura Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Lahore, were the other two individual winners.
Fatima Moin, Hania Hasan and Umme Salma Shabbir of Karachi’s Mama Parsi Girls’ Secondary School won a group prize for their project which used finely grounded form of fruit peels to remove heavy metals such as lead and copper from drinking water.
The other winning group, Qaiser Ali Shah, Ali Yazdan and Sajid Khan of the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School in Gilgit, developed a heat retention box that they claim can save up to 75 per cent energy for cooking.
Shah, a first-year student, said the box was made from aluminium foil, plywood and polyethylene foam. Once a cooking utensil’s contents have reached boiling point, it is removed from the gas or firewood stove and placed inside the box where the food cooks without any extra energy, he said.
“Firewood is used extensively used in our area as fuel and that is leading to deforestation.” Shah said. “We derived this idea from home insulation technology to reduce the use of firewood.”
One of the applications of Nawaz’s project that he displayed at the science fair is home intrusion detection. He connected a set of sensors to the device which send a signal. This triggers a mobile SIM installed on the device to call the home owner’s cell phone.
Jamil Ahmed, who led the scientific review committee which finalised the winners, said the projects were judged for following scientific principles, commercial viability and practicality of design.
“It’s encouraging that students have attempted research-based projects, and it is even better that they have this,” Ahmed said. The students who showcased their science projects at the national fair won provincial science fairs held in 2012. Several special awards and “Best of” awards for the eight science fair categories were also awarded at the ceremony.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2013.