By Gureni Lukwaro
American University of Sharjah (AUS) has been at the forefront of innovation, with many of the university’s faculty and students developing innovative solutions to human problems and challenges. The efforts of the university to invest and allocate the required resources to innovation are in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member, Ruler of Sharjah, and President of AUS, who envisioned the university as a hub for research, development and innovation on the local, regional and international levels.
Towards this end, the Sharjah Ruler issued an Amiri Decree at the end of June to establish the Research, Technology and Innovation (RTI) Park Free Zone Authority, which will be operated by AUS Enterprises, a business arm of American University of Sharjah. The RTI Park will be an environment conducive for innovation and creativity and will provide the needed infrastructure to support, encourage and develop an attractive innovation ecosystem to help the university and the emirate of Sharjah become a preferred destination in research and technology.
In March of this year, American University of Sharjah signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) to form a partnership aimed to help establish a culture of entrepreneurship and support the creation of a framework to enhance Sharjah’s reputation as an entrepreneurial leader in the field of innovation in the region.
AUS has earned its reputation and position in research and innovation. In the last three years, the university has seen remarkable achievements by its faculty and students.
In March 2013 a team of programmers from American University of Sharjah’s College of Engineering won the Gulf Programming Contest held in Abu Dhabi. The aim of the contest was to test students in computing-related majors to demonstrate their skills in programming and problem solving. This was the fifth time in a row an AUS team has this event.
In April of the same year, American University of Sharjah unveiled its first prototype of a fuel efficient car named Eco-Stallion. The fuel efficient car, designed to go the longest distance using the least amount of fuel, was deemed to be the future of green mobility. The car was made largely in AUS labs. A new and improved Eco-Stallion 2.0 was built and unveiled in February 2015.
In 2014, American University of Sharjah continued its streak of research and innovation. Among the projects that stood out was the award-winning app to help paralyzed patients communicate. Students from the American University of Sharjah College of Engineering developed a mobile solution that can help completely paralyzed patients communicate using a mobile app and a brain/computer interface. The project won first place at the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2014 UAE.
In that same year, another student team from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at American University of Sharjah developed a Lung++ app, an innovative app designed to improve the lives of people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The app took home second place at the Ninth Mobile Application Contest held in Abu Dhabi.
Later that year, an AUS physics professor developed a new laser-based technique that would allow scientists to manipulate human cells on a much smaller and more accurate scale. This innovation could provide insight into how we might cure diseases such as cancer. This research was also the first original scientific research from the UAE to be published in Nature Communications, a prestigious multidisciplinary scientific journal.
The following year saw even more exciting innovations coming from American University of Sharjah. In March 2015, the university announced that one of its research teams had made an important breakthrough in energy harvesting technology that could benefit many sectors, from biomedicine to construction. The device works by harnessing electromagnetic radiation from different sources and then reuses it to energize low-power circuits. Potential uses of the technology include being placed in a medical chip that measures blood sugar levels in diabetes patients; powering wireless sensors on bridges, roads and buildings to monitor structural safety factors; or improving the battery life of mobile phones.
Shortly after this, another team of researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at American University of Sharjah conducted the first successful hydrogen fuel cell powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flight in the UAE and GCC region, which marked significant progress made in the development of electric propulsion aircrafts and long-endurance UAVs in the region.
Before the end of 2015, another AUS research team working at the then newly established Drug Delivery Laboratory came up with an idea to use nanotechnology to treat cancer by delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to the cancer cells without affecting other healthy cells, hence reducing significantly the side effects of chemotherapy. The project won many accolades, and in 2016, it was selected as a finalist in the IChemE Global Award 2016.
This year was no different, as American University of Sharjah continued to be productive in research and innovation. Earlier this year, Team Torpedo, an American University of Sharjah mechanical engineering team, won first place in the Global Hybrid Competition 2016. The competition included 15 teams from the UAE, Qatar, Egypt and Kuwait that raced their hybrid vehicles 300 kilometers for four hours to test their vehicles’ energy efficiency. The American University of Sharjah team secured the First Place Overall title in the competition with 157 laps, which was three laps more than the second-place team and seven more than the third-place team. The AUS team also won First Place in the All-Electric Race and the Best Presentation Award.
A team combining American University of Sharjah MBA students and engineering graduate students was awarded the Houston Technology Center Innovation Award. The AUS team is the first team in the UAE to make it to the finals of this prestigious competition.
In another breakthrough moment this year, the university conducted a successful hydrogen fuel cell powered multi-rotor drone flight on campus. This was the first flight of its kind outside North America. The drone is powered by a Proton Exchange Membrane hydrogen fuel cell (PEMFC) and is able to maintain steady hover and forward flight. The test flight was conducted to demonstrate the feasibility of using a hydrogen fuel cell in multi-rotor drones. Fuel cell powered multi-rotor drones are capable of flying for many hours as compared to the traditional battery-powered drones with flight endurance of only 15 to 20 minutes.
These are but a few of the many research and innovation projects produced every year by American University of Sharjah. As the UAE and Sharjah celebrate this important innovation week, AUS will continue to lead the way in producing high-quality innovations that will help solve human problems and make this world a better and more prosperous place for all.