Qatar students explore programming at CMU-Q’s Alice Middle East competition
Alice Middle East event is the first under the new Hamad Bin Jassim Center for K-12 Computer Science Education
DOHA, Qatar: Middle and high school students from around the country showcased their programming skills at the Alice Middle East computer science competition at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q). This was the first Alice event under the umbrella of the Hamad Bin Jassim Center for K-12 Computer Science Education. Jassim & Hamad Bin Jassim Charitable Foundation,ExxonMobil Qatar and Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) partnered with CMU-Q for the event.
The competition was the culmination of weeks of preparation by the teams, who used the Alice Middle East educational software to create interactive games and animations. The original Alice software was developed at Carnegie Mellon University and adapted for Qatar by CMU-Q, with support from a National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) grant from QNRF. With the support of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Alice Middle East is now part of the curriculum at all Qatar government schools that teach information communication technology.
A total of 132 students from 13 schools created animations in the categories of space exploration, global warming, FIFA World Cup 2022, health, social responsibility, or video games. They were judged for programming skills, creativity, oral presentations and teamwork.
The winning teams represented Doha College, Al Khor International School, Al-Arqam Academy, Mesaieed International School and the American School of Doha.
Saquib Razak, associate teaching professor of computer science and the director of Alice Middle East, conducted a workshop to demonstrate to the students how computer science is important across many industries.
“Although, computer science is more than just programming,” he said. “Programming is an essential tool that allows us to test our ideas and algorithms. All of the teams here today demonstrated great work on their projects, and I’m really optimistic for the future of computer science in Qatar.”
Saeed Mathkar AlHajri, Board Member and CEO of Jassim & Hamad Bin Jassim Charitable Foundation,said: “We believe that computer science education is a critical aspect to a diverse, strong economy for Qatar, and we are happy to partner with CMU-Q on the Alice Middle East competition. Based on the quality of the projects shown by students here today, there is great potential for the next generation of computer scientists.”
The Hamad bin Jassim Center for K-12 Computer Science Education is a collaboration between the Jassim & Hamad Bin Jassim Charitable Foundation and CMU-Q. The Center aims to educate students in the fundamentals of computer science, helping to develop basic computational thinking skills. Alice Middle East is one of the initiatives of the Center.
Dr. Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, Executive Director of QNRF, a long-time supporter of Alice Middle East, commented: “One of QNRF’s top priorities is funding research that will contribute to growing Qatar’s human development for future generations. The Alice Middle East program is helping create the technical know-how that will enable the country to address its needs across all aspects of life.”
Aysha Fakhroo, regional business development manager at ExxonMobil and a 2008 CMU-Q graduate in computer science, spoke to the students and emphasized the value of the field.
“I am very happy to see so many of you who are passionate about computer science, and who are eager to take a complex problem and find a solution,” she said. “By participating in this competition, you learn how to solve problems, work in teams and present your projects. Sometimes we fail, but in return we learn more than we expected.”
The judges’ panel included representatives from Alobaib Primary Independent Girls School, CMU-Q, College of the North Atlantic – Qatar, Education Above All, Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), QNRF and Teach For Qatar.