Arab world uses reality TV to showcase science

A still from the show: one of the judges with Algerian contestant Wahiba Chair Copyright: Stars of Science

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[CAIRO] A reality television programme aiming to pique the public’s interest in science and showcase innovation has been launched in the Arab world.

Stars of Science, which began last month (29 May), is being broadcast on 17 different satellite channels in the region.

An initiative of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, it aims to engage younger audiences in science by using the popular reality television format.

A total of sixteen contestants from 11 different Arab states present their innovations — ranging from a wireless phone charger to solar power for Arabian tents.

Contestants have access to a fully-equipped workshop at the Qatar Science & Technology Park in Doha. Here they work in teams, being filmed around the clock while they develop their projects.

Each week a jury chooses the best projects to continue to the next step of the competition, until a winner remains at the end of five weeks. Eliminated contestants do not leave the show but join the remaining teams.

The winner will receive a US$300,000 prize and support to make their invention a marketable product.

"I believe it will take time for Arabs to move away from the entertainment shows that they are used to watching," says Ceem Haider, media spokeswoman for the programme. "But I also believe they will be hooked when they see the inventions being offered."

Nehal Lasheen, head of the science communication team at Ana TV — one of the satellite channels carrying the show — is more sceptical: "I was not very impressed by the quality of most of the projects chosen … many of the innovations may not be very practical or applicable on a wider scale".

But Haidar says the programme has been well received around the Arab world — largely due to the high quality of the innovations.

The first series of the show, which attracted 5,600 applicants, will end this month (26 June) and applications for the second series are already open.

"When I came [to Qatar] my dream was to see my product realised," says Mohammed Hegazy, a contestant from Egypt. "This has finally happened today through Stars of Science."