Jeddah student among semifinalists in fifth annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Deram Tamir Altabbaa has qualified for the final stages of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science video contest. (Breakthrough Facebook)
Updated 12 September 2019

Jeddah student among semifinalists in fifth annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge

  • Deram Tamir Altabbaa found in biochemistry a world of endless opportunities and a key science that helps in developing the scientific and moral sides of humanity
  • Students worldwide were tasked to submit engaging, imaginative (and sometimes humorous) videos to demonstrate difficult scientific concepts and theories in the physical or life sciences

JEDDAH: Local student Deram Tamir Altabbaa is among 30 international semifinalists out of an original 11,000 entrants who is currently competing for $400,000 in prizes as part of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science video contest.

Students worldwide were tasked to submit engaging, imaginative (and sometimes humorous) videos to demonstrate difficult scientific concepts and theories in the physical or life sciences. Think: Steven Spielberg meets Albert Einstein.

The grand prize winner will appear alongside world renowned scientists on stage at the Breakthrough Awards ceremony in Palo Alto, California, on Nov. 3.

The finalists’ videos are already up on Facebook, and the general public can vote for a people’s choice winner between now and September 20th.

View Deram Tamir Altabbaa’s video here:

https://www.facebook.com/BreakthroughPrize/videos/739377439843060/
Deram lives in Jeddah and is currently being homeschooled by his mother who he credits with teaching him everything he knows today, including his topic on Biochemical Regulations, the world of enzyme cascades and its negative feedback. Through his extensive research in biochemistry, he found that it is a world of endless opportunities and is a key science that helps in developing the scientific and moral sides of humanity.

Since its launch, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has reached 199 countries, and the 2019 installment of the global competition attracted more than 11,000 registrants. The contest is designed to inspire fresh, creative explanations of fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics and mathematics.

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation kicked off the ‘Popular Vote’ phase by posting all videos online on the Breakthrough Facebook page where people from around the world will have a chance to vote for their favorite video in the contest.

All 30 semifinalists will compete in the ‘Popular Vote’ contest, open until Friday, September 20 at 11:59 PM PT. The ‘Popular Vote’ invites the public to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission on the Breakthrough Facebook page. The video with the highest number of combined likes, positive reactions (e.g. “love”, “haha”, “wow”), and shares will be declared top scorer in the 2019 Popular Vote. The top scorer will progress automatically to the final round, bypassing the next round of judging and entering the running for overall Challenge winner.

In addition to creating and producing their own video entries, Challengers must also participate in a round of peer-to-peer assessment, in which they score some of their fellow competitors’ submissions.

On Saturday, September 21, the 15 finalists and the top scorer in the ‘Popular Vote’ will be revealed. The Popular Vote Top Scorer will receive automatic entry into the finalist round. Additionally, each of the seven geographic regions will have a top-scorer who will be named a Regional Champion.

The winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be announced at the internationally broadcast 2020 Breakthrough Prize ceremony live from Silicon Valley on November 3. The winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be awarded a $250,000 college scholarship. The science teacher who inspired the winning student will win a $50,000 prize. The winner’s school will also receive a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000.

“The Breakthrough Junior Challenge highlights some of the most promising young scientists in the world,” said Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy. “The videos from the semifinalists will help students all over the globe learn about science. Peer-to-peer education helps reinforce classroom learning and helps level the playing field for students everywhere.”


UK ambassador reflects on five ‘big years’ in Saudi Arabia

Outgoing UK Ambassador Simon Collis speaks during an interview with Arab News in Riyadh. (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanem)
Updated 27 January 2020

UK ambassador reflects on five ‘big years’ in Saudi Arabia

  • Gap between perception and reality of Kingdom, says Simon Collis

RIYADH: Britain’s outgoing ambassador to Saudi Arabia said it has been a privilege to be in the country for the last five years and witness the changes in the Kingdom firsthand.

Simon Collis joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1978 and has been an ambassador in Iraq, Syria and Qatar. He has also held senior diplomatic positions in Bahrain, Tunisia, Jordan, Dubai and India.
His diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia began a week after King Salman came to the throne in January 2015. A personal highlight was performing the Hajj in 2016 with wife Huda.
The five years that we’ve been here have been five big years, not only for us but five big years ... in the history of Saudi Arabia and certainly in the relationship with the UK,” he told Arab News. “It’s been just a wonderful time.”
He said there used to be concern about the role of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, known as the Mutawa’a or religious police, and its unchecked power.
“There were people that would be nervous about it. There was no music in public places, there was no mixing in restaurants. In 2015 no one would have imagined just how much these changes would be, first with (the reform plan) Vision 2030, then economic, and also social changes, women driving, the removal of the guardianship laws across pretty much everything, and the balancing role of the Mutawa’a.”
He welcomed the government’s emphasis on developing the entertainment and cultural sectors, calling it a “tremendous story,” and said he had enjoyed witnessing the Kingdom’s transformation.
“To see the enthusiasm in a young country, I think a lot of these new sectors, creative entertainment, on top of the existing ones like education, have been a delight to see. Of course, it’s not finished yet. I think this period, these five years, will look like a big moment in the history of the Kingdom.”
Changes in the Kingdom have attracted interest — and greater visitor numbers — from overseas.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Simon Collis joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1978 and has been an ambassador in Iraq, Syria and Qatar.

• He has also held senior diplomatic positions in Bahrain, Tunisia, Jordan, Dubai and India.

• His diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia began a week after King Salman came to the throne in January 2015.

• A personal highlight was performing the Hajj in 2016 with wife Huda.

The country is gaining a reputation for hosting massive events featuring the world’s biggest names including boxing match Clash On The Dunes pitting Britain’s Anthony Joshua against Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr, the electronic dance music festival MDL Beast featuring David Guetta and Steve Aoki, and concerts from K-Pop megastars BTS and Super Junior.
The ambassador said there was a gap between the perception of the Kingdom and the country’s on-the-ground reality.
“In any country, there is a gap between the perception that the image that exists in the world, and the reality that you find. This is true of any country. That gap between the perception and reality has been bigger in relation to Saudi Arabia than to any other country that I’ve lived in. So, the result is once people visit and they see for themselves, then they change their overall perception. They change their minds, and this is a very powerful thing.”
Tens of thousands of UK nationals visit the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah every year to perform Hajj and Umrah, but the reasons to visit the country are increasing.
Collis said that 43,000 people from the UK had taken advantage of a new e-visa system launched last October to visit Saudi Arabia, the highest number in the world.
“Every year we’ve seen the number of Saudi nationals visiting the UK increase, now it’s coming the other way,” Collis said. “With a population of less than 70 million, and it’s the No. 1 country visiting Saudi Arabia more than any other country, I’m very proud of that. I would say that of the hundreds and thousands of British people who I have met visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time, every single person I have met has left with a more positive (outlook) than the one that they arrived with. So, more visits must mean more people have a better idea of the realities of this country, society and its people.”
Collis said he had met many Saudis and forged friendships with them. People in the Kingdom had integrity and were straightforward, and the ambassador had special praise for the younger generation saying there was a “natural enjoyment” when he sat with them to talk. They were very aware, he added.

NUMBER

43,000 - people from the UK had taken advantage of a new e-visa system launched last October to visit Saudi Arabia, the highest number in the world.

His regard for young Saudis is evident. He launched the Alumni Awards, which recognize Saudi students who have returned to the Kingdom, excelled and succeeded in their professions or made an impact in their communities. With more than 100,000 Saudis studying in the UK over the last 10 years, the program will be developed in order to increase engagement with them once they return to Saudi Arabia.
The national and global awards initiative is aimed at showcasing the impact and value of a UK higher education, and winners and finalists are leaders in their fields.
“The Alumni Awards are fun. What the award looks at, whether it’s an entrepreneur or professional or social category, it’s not what did you do in the UK with your studies, it’s when you got your qualification, what did you do in Saudi Arabia when you came back. How did you use it? It’s about what use you put it to, not what you get, but how did you use it to further your own career, your life and that of your community and others around you,” Collis said.
Collis is succeeded as the UK’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia by Neil Crompton, who takes up the role next month.