A bullet cannot kill a dream. Armed with this idea, two innovators from Syria’s conflict zone represented their country in the World Robot Olympiad.
Ahmad Abu Trab and Hussein Shahin, both 17, are students in Damascus, the Syrian Capital. They have built a robotic automated design which can extract cement, boulders and iron by recycling the debris of buildings, several of which are in Syria and neighbouring countries as a result of the ongoing war. The boys said their homes, on the outskirts of Damascus, were also bombed during the war between Syrian forces and the militia.
“Our homes, cars, clothes everything were destroyed. We never knew who did it. We had fled a couple of days before the war engulfed our area. When we contacted our relatives there, they said our home is gone. They sent us pictures of the debris,” said Ahmad.
He said the rebels gained access to some parts of rural Damascus about two or three years ago. Their homes were in the middle of the conflict zone and rebel and Syrian forces kept bombing each other without thinking about the civilian casualties.
Hussein said, “ We chose not to join any faction and study in Damascus. The idea of a robot recycling debris robot was a result of the war. We saw debris of our homes. Our machine can turn the debris into building materials.”
Their model can also turn harmful gases produced during the recycling process and turn them into by-products like gas for cooking and fuel for vehicles.
“We worked really hard to be here. We faced shortage of raw material to build models as the business and economy of our country is in shambles. We could manage to participate in this event with the help of a computer science society in Syria. We received a positive response here,” said Tarek Chikh Al Shababi, coach of the Syrian team.
Tarek said that due to the lack of financers, the future of robotics in Syria is uncertain. Tarek said his teams’ participation in the Olympiad was also important as he wanted people to see the other side of Syria.
“Not all Syrians are in war. There are people like us who want to learn, grow and prosper. People from the western part of the world must see this,” he said.
Mirna Alnakri, 17, a student in Damascus, said she wants to set an example and promote education among girls in Syria. “I am 17 but I dream of becoming an engineer. I am safe in Damascus but we need more schools and teachers. I came here with a model of robotic compost maker. We hope some day we get financers for our project,” she said.