Despite their upcoming exams, the 12 young students managed to harness the power of their scientific passions and win the competition.
Rabat – Out of 2,000 participants, 12 students have won the sixth “Race2Space” competition, organized by the “Scientific Morocco Association” and the American Embassy in Rabat.
The competition requires participating students between 15 and 18 years old to make a three-minute video explaining a scientific phenomenon, along with an experiment to demonstrate it.
Despite the fact that some of them were preparing for an upcoming baccalaureate exam, all 12 winners managed to participate successfully. The young Moroccan students made videos in English offering a range of scientific lessons related to physics, biology, and chemistry.
The 12 winners will benefit from a grant covering their participation in NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, as well as a cultural trip to Washington DC to learn about the monuments and scientific sites in the US capital.
The 2019 Race2Space ceremony featured the CEO of the US Space & Rocket Center, Dr. Deborah Barnhart, and a planetary scientist and system engineer for NASA’s “Mars 2020” Mission, Dr. Danielle Nuding.
Scientific Morocco Association, an organizer of several scientific events for children, aims to “spread scientific culture and thinking.”
In an interview with Morocco World News, 17-year-old winner Israe Nassiri, who made a video explaining the cardiovascular disease atherosclerosis, said that winning Race2Space was a childhood dream come true.
“I’ve been planning for my dream project since I was a kid. I have decided to discuss atherosclerosis following my participation in the Arab Reading Challenge, where I read over 50 books, and one of them was about the mysterious disease.”
Being a Math Sciences student with a busy schedule, Nassiri had to summon great motivation and energy to cope with the two tasks, which she considered to be equally important.
“Winning the competition for me was a must, and I personally believe that if you have enough passion and the proper motivation to achieve something, we will find a way.”
Sixteen-year-old Sahar El Abbassi, who worked on a carbon allotrope called graphene and its upcoming revolutionary uses, told MWN that the love of science was enough to power her work through sleepless nights.
“This competition was a priority for me, which also resulted [in] the acquisition of several disciplines and skills such as time organizing,” said El Abbassi, pointing out that “ambition is the cornerstone of achieving success and reaching goals.”
Wiam Berrahou revealed how she had been nervous about the idea of choosing DNA as a topic, and how she managed to stick with the idea even though most of the competitors discussed physics.
“… but I love Biology, so I decided to talk about something I am passionate about even if it would prevent me from being selected. I also wanted to correct people’s perspective on science being only related to Maths and Physics.”
Morocco and the question of scientific research
Salma Ziadi worked on Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) Radiation, introducing it as the “most powerful thing in the universe.”
Referring to Morocco’s recent program to promote scientific research in all fields related to COVID-19, the 15-year-old Meknes native said this is a “huge” achievement given Morocco’s status as a “developing country.”
“However, there are many other areas of research that are marginalized in Morocco such as radiation,” she pointed out.
For 17-year-old Hamza Atif, who explained the phenomenon of the water cycle, paying tribute to environmental issues was an important factor. He particularly hoped to raise awareness about climate change.
Atif approaches the question of scientific research with hope. “My country has a lot to offer in terms of both human and natural resources. Hence I am optimistic about the future and I believe that Morocco can guarantee me the career that I want.”
The power of ambition
Rania Jaafar, another bold participant, took on the challenging topic of bacteriophages and their role in the immune system. She had entered the competition as a challenge, but now she sees it as a first step in her scientific career.
“I do not know the exact steps I shall follow in the future, but I know that I want to make a difference in this world, discover something new that is likely to help humanity, and answer at least one question in the field of science before I die,” said Jaafar with a tone full of ambition.
Anas El Ghali Ktami, with one of the most entertaining videos of the competition, thought through many topics before finally deciding to pursue the question: Why can’t we walk on water?
“I’ve always asked myself this question, but never actually tried to ask science, to unveil the secret behind it.”
El Ghali’s ambition goes beyond exploring the concept of walking on water. With interests in several fields of science, becoming an astronaut is at top of his list.
“Being an astronaut has always been my biggest dream, and through this space camp I will get to live and feel what it’s like, and as an experience it will make me even more excited and motivated to achieve my dream of working for NASA someday as an astronaut.”
With remarkable TV show-style hosting skills, Ali Makhlouf demonstrated a phenomenon that most people ignored, that of non-Newtonian fluids.
“Race2Space is an opportunity to develop and enhance my skills and knowledge about astronomy, in addition to my self-development by being part of a team,” said the young scientist.
“This experience taught me to keep chasing my dreams, by getting me a step closer to them,” he added. “Among these goals [is] making the world a better place either by an invention, a discovery, or a simple wise thought.”
Joining the ranks of renowned Moroccan scientists
The 12 young scientists are making their way towards international recognition like several Moroccans before them. One such example is scientist Kamal Oudghiri, who has been working for NASA for over 20 years.
Oudghiri holds a set of inspiring accomplishments and and has participated in missions related to Mars exploration vehicles, including “Curiosity,” “Rovers,” “Spirit,” and “Opportunity,” as well as “Cassini” for Saturn, “Grail” for the moon, and “Juno” for Jupiter.
Along with Oudghiri, 27-year-old Moroccan Rihab Sadik has also been involved with NASA. She is an International Space Station (ISS) biomedical flight controller and a medical operations data specialist at NASA Johnson Space Center. She supports “real-time operations and medical data” for the ISS, according to her online presence.
The 12 ambitious students and these inspirational role models highlight Morocco’s need to address the brain drain. Perhaps the young scientists’ careers will offer a chance to heal the national wound left by the fact that great minds must sometimes leave Morocco for better academic opportunities.
Scientific achievements by Moroccans abroad often prompt questions about the struggle of tackling brain drain and what should be done to allow Morocco to benefit from its nationals’ potential, rather than regretting the loss of great minds in the future.
In the enduring words of Anne Frank, “Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones, because the regret is stronger than gratitude.”