Recently I won the UAE leg of the Microsoft Imagine Cup in the Games Category, which is one of the world’s most prestigious global student technology competitions. It was certainly an honor, especially because I was the first Emirati to win the competition since it began 9 years ago. I hadn’t even thought about entering, but Dr. Hadi Otrok, entered me, and the game I designed when I was 16, and Microsoft moved me on to the finals.
The game I made is called Cayram, which most of you will know is a popular board game played across the region and even in India. To date I’ve had close to 1 million people download my game, and 500,000 of them are from the Gulf, I’m proud of this, because its people in the Gulf who I wanted to influence.
I started this game because I thought the younger generation was drifting towards new technology. So, I thought that if I couldn’t turn kids away from phones, pads and other devices, perhaps I could put our culture onto them. While there may be other Cayram apps out there, mine is the only one that uses UAE rules, which is why it’s so popular in the GCC.
I would like to send a message to my peer engineers to be proactive and enthusiastic about innovative ideas and not to be afraid to try something new. I hope that my experience inspires others to try and make a difference in their own environments. Sometimes the best ideas are right next to you and inspiration comes from your home.
It’s important for us to preserve our identity, even while we embrace new technologies. Just because something is local, doesn’t mean it can’t have potential or that it can’t be fashioned into something international.
I’ll be off to Bahrain in June to compete in the regional leg of the Imagine Cup, so wish me luck. Hopefully, I’ll be on my way to Seattle for the Grand Finale soon!
By Khalid AlAwar
Computer Engineering Student at Khalifa University