Arab youth gather in Egypt for robotics competition

Six-year-old Adam Abdel Maksoud is dressed up as his favorite cartoon character, Chase, from the TV show, Paw Patrol. But he’s not dressed up for Comic-Con.

Adam is one of the nearly 600 people participating in the 13th Arab Robotics Championships.  His teacher helped design a fun wardrobe so he’d feel comfortable. As the only six-year-old, he is the youngest competitor this year.

“I’m making a model of a big machine that transports electric vehicles. EVs are very important for our future, because other cars produce a lot of pollution. That makes the air smell bad and it’s not got for Earth,” says the young inventor with sparkly eyes.

The organizers have allowed six to nine-year-olds to compete, hoping to encourage kids to adore technology at early ages.

Dressed up in a blue wizard gown, Chris Fady believes he can change the world. He is putting the final touches on his project: A smart system to help ports deliver containers in a much faster way.

“I created a warehouse that connects the port to a train station. I designed a crane to offload from the warehouse and load the goods on the train. I’ve been working on this model for two months to help my country deliver goods to people fast,” said the eight-year-old competitor.

Chris’s mom, Sahar Nabil is in the audience.  She’s on edge, closely watching her child rebuild his model. Every now and then, she let’s out a loud cheer, hoping her voice can encourage and comfort her son.

“It’s the second time we’ve participated in this competition. Last year, he came in second place. He’s eager to win this time”.

She says Chris has been training since he was four. And that he takes training courses so he’ll always be up-to-date with the new technology available.

“All these kids come here very excited to show their work. I’m sure when they grow many of them will make a difference.”

Not all parents managed to come all the way to Sharm El Sheikh to support their kids. It’s a 600-kilometer trip east of the capital Cairo. Mariam Emad is one of the teachers who has been working with these kids for months. She teaches them how to build smart systems and code advanced Lego sets to make their models real.

One of Mariam’s jobs is to help these children present their ideas to Egyptian officials, to make the kids feel heard. Nothing much is expected from this age category except to enjoy the competition, yet Mariam says the kids often surprise the grown-ups.

“They have wild imagination. So for example, in the competition to speed up ports’ container loading, they designed a rollercoaster to move the goods. I don’t think any adult would come up with that… They even made the feasibility study for the design. When they met the chief of Alexandria port, he was impressed by many of the ideas.”

The tournament wraps up on July 4.

It takes place in conjunction with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s launch of the 2023 Year Initiative for Arab Youth, where he received the Arab Ministers of Youth and Sports on the sidelines of the 45th session of their council in Cairo.