Palestine refugee college students receive top prize in California competition for innovative new device

30 June 2013

30 June 2013
San Francisco

At an international competition for young inventors and emerging technology companies, held last month in San Francisco, California, the top prize went to four young Palestine refugees, Aws an-Nablusi, Abed al-Azeem al-Bukhari, Ibrahim Wahbeh and Fadi Shahid. Their innovative, prize-winning product, the Notetracker, originated in a daily challenge that students all over the world might recognize.

The four young people are fourth- and fifth-year students of engineering at An-Najah National University in Nablus, in the northern West Bank. Realizing how difficult it was to listen carefully to lectures while still keeping up with their professors’ written notes, they set about designing a solution.

Their invention, the Notetracker, is a simple, low-cost tool by which smartphones, tablets or personal computers can be synced in the classroom. With just one click, students can focus on a lecture as the professor’s notes fly onto their screens. Later, the notes can be reviewed, added to or edited.

Teamwork and persistence

“Receiving first prize in the Silicon Valley competition was beyond my imagination,” said Ibrahim Wahbeh, adding that persistence and teamwork had made their success possible. Using simple materials, easily accessible in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and abroad, the students worked on the Notetracker for more than six months. Between the four of them, they divided the project’s many requirements, including programming, hardware design and marketing, working together to prepare the Notetracker for international competition.

Overcoming multiple challenges

Dr Ahmad al-Rumhi, Dean of Engineering at An-Najah University, was excited by the students’ success. “I am proud of the achievement of our students, who were able to change simple, local materials into electronics – especially taking into account the restrictions imposed on importing them.”

The young refugee students were looking to the future. Noting that the Notetracker was “the first Palestinian product represented in Silicon Valley,” Fadi Shahid said: “I hope to represent my country in other international technological forums and come up with more inventions.”

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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