Pandemic inspires win at competition

Princess Sumaya University for Technology students Amr Darawsheh, Leen Abu Shaar, and Alina Abu Siam hold up their award for Huawei’s Middle East Innovation Competition. (Photo: Petra)
AMMAN — A Jordanian team of three computer science students has won Huawei’s Middle East Innovation Competition.

The international competition was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. اضافة اعلان

Each team received a hardware dubbed “Atlas”, which is a small supercomputer the size of a mobile phone that allows users to efficiently work on artificial intelligence (AI) programs.

The winning Jordanian team came together with some help from their university professor. Ammar Odeh,  a faculty member at Princess Sumaya University for Technology, encouraged his students Amr Darawsheh, Leen Abu Shaar, and Alina Abu Siam to sign up for the competition. 

“The project we made is ‘Safety Alert’. It is like a platform that would detect people who are not wearing masks or not following the rules of social distancing,” Darawsheh told Jordan News. 

“My part was to work on the Atlas itself, prepare it so we can use it, linking the artificial intelligence with the website.”

The everyday occurrence of people not abiding by social distancing rules or wearing masks inspired Safety Alert.
“What I focused on was the AI part of the project. You build the model, then it will need training to learn how to detect if a person was wearing a mask or not wearing one,” said Abu Siam. 

“I trained it like a child, using labels, telling and showing it photos of people with masks on, and people without masks. Then we test it to see if it is working or not.

We worked on it for about two to three months.” 

The process Abu Siam describes is typically known as machine learning, which employs complex algorithms that improve over time — “learning” how to complete a task just as humans do. 

Abu Shaar’s work was dedicated to the project’s website. “When a violation is detected, we send data that relates to it, which is a screenshot of what happened on the spot, including the time and the kind of violation that happened. So anyone on the website will choose what camera to open, then check the violation notification,” she explained. 

Huawei held an online training for the participants, who represented more than 437 universities from 20 countries. “The competition was not only for Jordan. It included the Middle East and Pakistan, so they held an online workshop to teach of us on how to use the device,” said Abu Shaar. 

The inability to see each other in person represented an obstacle for the team. Most of their discussion took place via Zoom or on social media. “I think not being able to sit in the same place most of the time was the biggest challenge,” said Darawsheh. 

However, the team members received plenty of support from their families, friends, and the university itself. “The university supported us a lot by giving us a space to work in. Professor Ammar Odeh supervised what we did and other professors, in general, helped,” Abu Siam said. “If we had to skip a class, they would understand and not make a problem about it.”

On the last day of the competition, a closing ceremony was held online. They gave honorable mentions to the other teams then announced the winner.

“That day we were in a lab at the university. They opened the Zoom meetings with the judges, then we presented the project, and in about an hour they announced the winners,” Abu Shaar recalled. 

Last Thursday, another ceremony was held to honor the Jordanian students who won and participated in the competition. Secretary-General of the Ministry of Higher Education Mamoun Al-Dabai, President of Princess Sumaya University Mashhour Al-Rifai, the general director of Huawei Jordan, Tawfiq Zhang Yang, and a number of specialists and participants in the competition were present at the ceremony.

“We all have a passion for what we do, so we work hard. I think that is what made our project stand out, other than the fact that it is related to what the world is going through now with the pandemic,” said Darawsheh.