Zayed University Hosts the 12th Undergraduate Research Conference: Over 600 Participants from 7 countries attend Virtually

23 Apr 2020

Under the patronage of H.E. Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, President of Zayed University (ZU), the 12th Annual Conference on Undergraduate Research on Applied Computing (URC2020) was, and for the very first time, held remotely online, due to the on-going events concerning COVID-19, and for the safety and health of everyone.

The opening session saw over 200 participants and four keynote speakers, where panel discussions revolved around this year's theme, "ICT and the Digital Economy." A total of 168 undergraduate research projects were presented by students from 24 educational institutions based in 7 countries from around the region.

The objective of the conference is for students to gain knowledge from regional research experiences, and learn from previous accomplishments driven towards the advancement of emerging technology. The two-day conference aims to promote research activity of educational institutions across the Arab world and beyond, all through the provision of a forum for undergraduate students to present their research projects, share ideas and interact with other young researchers and the technology industry.     

The online conference was initiated with welcoming notes, delivered by Dr. Michael Allan, Assistant Provost for Research at ZU. He said: "With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zayed University has been rising above the challenges to ensure continuity. Through the power of technology, we live in a time where, fortunately, through the power of technology, we can persevere with ambitious goals, and today, for the very first time, we have moved a massive platform on to our computer screens. This unique approach compiles thorough dedication, deems commitment to pursue knowledge, and magnifies our keenness to taking swift action to manage this crisis and move forward, regardless of the circumstances."

Dr. Hany El Kadi, Dean of the College of Tech Innovation at ZU, pointed that the participation this year has received 638 people who amongst them were students, faculty, researchers and the industry, and were behind of making it a successful conference this year. "The 2020 version of the conference will be introducing for the very first time a special track for full research papers, as the 10 accepted papers will be published in the IEEE Xplore Digital Platform, which delivers full text access to the world's highest quality technical literature in engineering and technology," El Kadi said.

The Conference Chairs, Dr. Omar Alfandi, Assistant Dean of the College of Tech Innovation, Dr. Huwida Said, Assistant Chair of the College of Tech Innovation at ZU and Dr. Qusay H. Mahmoud, Professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada introduced the conference program in general and explained to all attendees how the accepted research projects will be presented in live demos and poster presentations by undergraduate students, and each team were provided with 5 minutes to present their project.

Quoted from the Conference Chairs “The objective of the undergraduate research conference is to promote undergraduate research activity in the region by providing a forum for students to present their research projects and interact with other young researchers from academic institutions across the Arab World, and leaders from the IT industry.”

“It provides educational and networking opportunities for undergraduate students from academic institutions across the Arab world; students share ideas and gain insight into knowledge discovery and the value research and innovation bring to society.”

Saeed Al Dhaheri, Director – Center for Future Studies, University of Dubai, led the conference as the Keynote speaker, where he highlighted the UAE's accomplishment in areas of Digital Economy competitiveness, Gov-Tech adoption, legal frameworks adaptability to digital business, and employing skilled talents. "The UAE highly invests in strategies on the digital economy, one of which is the 4th industrial revolution (4IR) strategy, which really aims for the UAE to be a global hub in that field," he said.

He addressed the students to consider two main drivers in their projects’ value creation; first, producing and innovating Digital data, which are the core pillars of digital technologies. And secondly, platformization; creating digital platforms using data-driven business models, innovation, integrate transactional platforms, and the creation of coding and content environments.

Dr. Andrew Marrington, Associate Dean of the College of Technological Innovation at Zayed University, moderated the online Panel Discussion, under, "ICT and the Digital Economy" hosting, Dr. May Al Taei from the Abu Dhabi School of Government, Eng. Omar Al Hashimi is a Director of Knowledge Management and Innovation Department at the Municipality of Abu Dhabi City, and Ahmed Alkatheeri is the Service Delivery Manager at Etihad Airways. The panel discussion addressed several issues related to the current crisis, and its impact on the current activities of the “traditional economy” which can now be moved online. The panelists emphasized on the global digital economy’s rising need of young researchers from this region, and the crucial aspects of ICT towards the sustainability of our cities. They also addressed issues related to ICT skills graduates need to succeed and make an impact in the workforce.

The opening of the URC conference was followed by an overview of the research projects presented by participating students during dedicated online sessions. Various topics were presented, including Auto Car Check-in System using the Internet of Things (IoT), Liquid Water Monitoring System with IoT, A Zero-delay Automatic Vehicle Accident Reporting and Emergency Call System, and much more.

Dr. Fatma Taher, chair of IEEE-UAE section, said: “This year, the 12th edition of the annual URC  is technically sponsored by IEEE institution, and we’ll continue to support further development of students in the field of technology, which is aligned with the UAE vision 2021 that aims to make the UAE amongst the best countries in the world in that field.”

Zeina Saade, Education Account Manager, Cisco Systems, said: “The top 3 students presentations will be shortlisted for an initial online-interview for entry to Cisco's graduate program, on the following of the event’s closing ceremony.” She also said, that the Top 5 will enjoy a tour at Cisco Dubai to learn about the latest technologies and solutions in the industry as soon as the quarantine period is over. The top 5 students would also be eligible to receive free technology business courses on topics and training in cybersecurity programming and entrepreneurship.

During the closing ceremony, which took place on the end of day 2, the names of the top 5 winners were announced:

First place was landed by team Number 51, from King Saud University, KSA, project on Applying Blockchain Technology to achieve trusted reviewing system. By Jood Alanzy, Ghadah Alhudhayf, Jude Altalhi, Shahad Alghunaim and shahad Alnasser.

Second place went to team Number 94, from King Saud University, KSA, project on Energy consumption Mobile Application for Optimum Use of Power, by Israa Gabi and Maryam Bahmaid.

Third place went to team Number 19, from Ajman University, UAE, Project on Smart two-way Communication System for the Hearing-Impaired, done by Mohamed Abduljawaad, Mohammed Elnour, Youssef Elsonbaty, and Wessam Shehieb.

Fourth place went to team Number 83, from King Saud University, KSA, project on Arabic Augmented Reality-Based Storybook for Children with Autism, by Nouf Alduaifi, Ghadah Alnafisi, Layan Aljowair, Raghad Alhumood, and Leena Alotaibi.

Fifth place went to team Number 174, from King Saud University, KSA, project on Smart locker System Using Face Recognition, by Fatmah Alfhaid, Lama Alfalah, and Malak Alsumail.

The conference was organized by the ZU College of Technological Innovation, in full collaboration with Cisco, IEEE-UAE Section, and ZU Research Office.