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Students share their sustainable dreams for Oman

1 Mar 2023 sustainability fair By HUBERT VAZ

Students from 13 schools show ‘How to make Oman more sustainable’ through their interesting and ambitious projects at the Oman Sustainability Fair 2023

There was an air of intrigue and inspiration on the lawns of the Hotel InterContinental Muscat which was abuzz with young energy and enthusiasm on Tuesday afternoon as ambitious teams from 13 different schools in Oman participated in the second edition of the Oman Sustainability Fair 2023.

This year’s winners – declared at the end of the event – were British School Muscat (Most innovative idea), ABA Ecological Society (Most practical implementation), Qurum Private School (Best presentation), and The Sultan’s School Eco Club (Overall winner).

The judging panel included Dr Ali Akaak, ESO Board Member and Head of the Human Resource Management Department at the University of Technology and Applied Sciences in Salalah – (Academia), Ulrich Emmer, managing director, BAUER Nimr LLC – the leading environmental turnkey solutions provider in Oman which developed the world’s largest commercial constructed wetland in the Sultanate, and Elayne Looker – Marine Scientist, Five Oceans Environmental Services – a specialist environmental consultancy company providing a broad range of environmental services and assistance.

sustainability fair - judges
The judges: (from right) Elayne Looker, Ulrich Emmer and Dr Ali Akaak with the organising team

‘The purpose of this event was to bring awareness and promote sustainability by bringing together the Oman community. The focal point of the fair was the presentations by student teams from 13 Oman schools on how to make Oman more sustainable,’ a statement issued by the event organiser – Oman American Business Center (OABC) / AmCham Oman – said.

Marla Valdez, board member, Oman American Business Center, who spearheaded the event, added, “The Oman American Business Center has been supporting the Oman business community for the past 20 years with initiatives, such as the Sustainability Fair, that generates dialogues and collaboration on the topics that matter the most. The aim of this Sustainability Fair was to bring together different communities for the common goal of sharing creative ideas on how to protect the environment.

“It was truly inspiring to see the work done by the students, and it gives us hope to see such passionate environmental champions. We also had tremendous support from the Oman business community and non-profit organisations which are working hard everyday to protect Oman and the planet through innovative ideas and awareness initiatives.”

The fun event brought together the Oman community to raise awareness and promote sustainability in the sultanate. Besides an impressive display of students’ projects on ‘how to make Oman more sustainable’, the event also featured work done by environmental organisations, the US Embassy Muscat, SMEs, and businesses.

‘Move Green’ a local band entertained the gathering with inspirational renditions while several SME’s showcased their sustainable products. This was the second edition of the fair which could not be held for the past two years due to the pandemic.

As the official affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce in Oman (AmCham Oman), the OABC promotes understanding, partnerships and other matters of mutual economic interest between business communities in Oman and the United States. Formed in 2003, the OABC’s mission is to foster the development of commercial activity between Oman and the United States.

The Sustainability Fair was coordinated by Heather Redling and the team at the Oman American Business Center.  As the official affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce in Oman (AmCham Oman), the OABC promotes understanding, partnerships and other matters of mutual economic interest between business communities in Oman and the United States. Formed in 2003, the OABC’s mission is to foster the development of commercial activity between Oman and the United States.

The sponsors for the event included Bauer Nimr (main sponsor) – leading environmental turnkey solutions provider in the Sultanate of Oman, Five Oceans Environmental Services (silver sponsor) – a specialist environmental consultancy company providing a broad range of environmental services and assistance to both private industry, government sectors, and NGOs, and Environment Society Oman (ESO) – the only non-profit organisation in Oman that focuses on conserving the environment.

The participating schools were ABA (American British Academy) ABQ Sohar International School, AGS (A’soud Global School), Al Sahwa Schools, BSM, Indian School Al Wadi Al Kabir, The Sultan’s School, The American International School of Muscat, Downe House Muscat, Muscat International School (MIS), Phillippine School, Modern International School (MISO), Qurum Private School

The companies supporting the event included be’ah (Oman Environmental Services Holding Company), Arab Lead and Three Pillars Consulting while those showcasing their work include US. Embassy Muscat, Move Green – Band, Verde and Green, YN Products, Clean up Oman, EFP (Egg carton recycling), Theresa Boshoff (recycled paper), Plasbin, 44.01, and Nasser al Kindi (professional wildlife photographer).

The winning teams

Overall Winner

The Sultan’s School Eco Club – ‘Sustainable Agriculture’

The Sultan’s School team

Our inspiration was the 10 million trees initiative, launched by the Late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, which we first decided to support within the walls of our school. The tasks were divided based on our personal interests and previous work we had done on the projects rather than a more formal division of work. As we are all members of the school’s Eco Club, we meet often and were able to work collaboratively and share ideas.

Several members were helpful, most notably Ms Deb, Ms Natalie, Ms Robin, Mr Sam and the Design Technology team. We are very grateful for all the support we received.

The overall brief was the practice of sustainability, something that we are reminded of almost daily by our involvement in the Eco Club. By connecting all the projects together, we were able to tailor them more to the overall objective of sustainability.

This project is an evolving one, and came from many hours of planning, research and collaboration over the course of three years.

Despite being passionate about the environment ourselves, our greatest challenge was convincing the broader school community to embrace the same mindset. As we are young people, sometimes we feel like our voices are not loud enough and not serious enough, but this forum gave us the opportunity to be heard.

We learnt that if you believe in yourself and your passion is strong enough, anything and everything is attainable. We have simply planted the seeds – it is in your hands to see this vision grow and flourish into reality.

Most Innovative Idea

British School Muscat – ‘MODA (Moisture Detecting Assistant)’

British School Muscat team

MODA measures the soil moisture content of plants and regulates the water flow that is provided to the plant. We did this project completely individually, but we were briefed about this from the sustainability committee of BSM and Ms Stammeijer.

We aimed to find loopholes in sustainable projects already present in Oman and chose to focus on the overlooked issue of water wastage. For the fair, team members Alisha and Melody focused on the visual presentations, team members Ovia and Oliver carried out demonstrations for our audience and team member Kaamini coded and created the robot.

The product was essentially a robot that could monitor the moisture levels of soil, it would help people know whether they had over or under watered their plants. Not only helping people save water from overwatering when gardening but also encouraging more people to garden, increasing Oman’s greenery. We had initially thought of making a fully working prototype, including actual water tanks and the valves which would control the amount of water that flows through to the plant based on the readings from the probe. But unfortunately our time was too limited. Our product was essentially a gaze into the future possibilities of ideal, automated gardening.

We formed our team around the middle of February, giving us around 2-3 weeks to prepare. A week altogether to come up with an idea, most time being spent actually making the physical robot, with the coding and constructing being the most challenging part.

Making the actual physical prototype, that we talked about during the fair, in the short period of time was challenging as the final product would’ve been a fully functional prototype of the product we as a team envisioned.

By looking deeper into the common issues of water wastage in Oman, we as a team gained strong value of motivation into further developing our prototype and how it could potentially resolve these issues. We highly wanted to ensure this was something that could be widely available and easily accessible for everyone in the country.

Additionally soil nutrients can be measured using Arduino based soil N-P-K (nitrogen phosphorus potassium). These sensors work on the optical principle of where the characteristics of the reflected light from the soil surface indicate the chemical properties of the soil, allowing us to create various prototypes for every region and not just for Oman.

As the world grows and evolves into Artificial Intelligence and robotics, it would be greatly beneficial for the coming generations to learn and understand how the world sound morphs into technology. When doing so, we, as the young and growing generation, can mould and shape the way the world is growing. That’s all sustainability is about. Preservation and growth.

We strongly hope that MO.D.A will in fact be beneficial to many communities in Oman as well as other regions. Please look forward to the development of project MO.D.A!

Best Presentation
Qurum Private School – Zero Organic waste to Oman landfill Project (ZOOP)

Qurum Private School team

We decided to target food waste as our step closer to building a greener community, as organic waste has proved to be one of the most overlooked issues in Oman with over 65% of household consumption emitting greenhouse gasses.
We assigned research work to all team members to collect enough information, and had daily meetings during break time for discussion. We also created a WhatsApp group to discuss the project. Finally, we assigned specific tasks to each of the candidates like poster designing, brochure designing, collecting all information that had to be displayed, PowerPoint presentation, banners and the biobin model. Our amazing team worked together at school for three days to assemble everything together.
This was mostly an independent project constructed by and created by us students alone. However, we were continuously supervised, monitored and received feedback from our lovely biology teacher, Miss Tahira.
We were given a short summary of the topic our project had to fall under, and what it required in terms of display and the need for a model. We received information that was shared via email regarding the Sustainability Fair. We held meetings under the supervision of our teacher to establish a proper plan where all participants could share their ideas and stay on the same page until our research was completed. We made many rough drafts, mind maps, and finally we did it!
We worked on this project for around 10 days in total. The decision-making process was extremely time-consuming. Finalising our poster, model, and fixing all loopholes was a challenge. Regardless, the outcome was certainly worth the struggle, and we were able to confidently showcase our passion and dedication during our presentation!
A challenge we encountered was how to distribute tasks among participants and the assisting students. To address this issue, we appointed a leader who organised us into teams with specific objectives.
Through this friendly, dynamic, and lively fair we each were able to learn various different aspects on sustainability from every team present. Our most memorable lesson was the importance of teamwork. Teamwork showed us that despite the short time, if we work together we can reach our goal. Participating in programs such as fairs can push you to do things you wouldn’t normally do. Not only will you learn time management skills, managing your schoolwork and other tasks, but also as presenters you will gain insight into how to overcome your stage fright.We would like to encourage the younger generation to take responsibility for the environment and become the leaders of each family in this journey to a more sustainable Oman. Initiatives must be taken in order to make a change, and our future lies within the hands of our youth.

Most Practical Implementation

ABA Ecological Society (EcoSoc)

ABA team

This project is a club set up by Alix Dupont who became the president last year, and is presently co-leading it with Kiana Andres, in ABA. Since joining, our ambitious initiatives have resulted in the number of members to have grown from 3 to 54, which we have divided into four groups.

Our project involves the following:

Renewable Energy: Starting off with a petition, then researching renewable energy application procedures, the team followed by meeting with various solar energy companies, and finally writing a full tender (that was sent out 2 weeks ago): EcoSoc has come a long way in the process of transitioning ABA to a 60% renewable energy-powered campus. This was a fully student-led initiative that will significantly reduce the school’s reliance on fossil fuels .

Recycling: Setting up a recycling system that incorporates paper, plastic, metals, batteries, and more. We have a contract with Plasbin who has placed two large disposal containers outside the main entrance of the school. This allows the ABA community to dispose of their waste safely.

Composting bins: 4 composting bins have been built (completely by students during their free time). We hope for our cafeteria to soon dispose of their day-to-day leftovers here to create natural fertilizer. We have changed the cafeteria to only sell biodegradable plastic (wrappings, straws, cutlery…).

Biodiversity: A garden was created on campus with several vegetables including tomatoes and chillies. Planting of Omani trees including Ziziphus, Moringa, Frankincense, Dodonea and Date Palms to reduce our water consumption around campus, create habitat for local fauna and maintain a green environment. In addition, all students were invited to come plant during the breaks.

New project: Green walls. We already have aquaponics on campus but would like to exponentially increase their presence so that the school’s cafeteria could use them in the near future.

Social Media: Our instagram @ecosocaba has allowed us to begin sharing our progress towards making ABA more sustainable. Our club, Eco-Soc, is supervised by Mr Ruairidh MacKenzie.

We were told to display environmental initiatives taken at school. I think we did very well as in our exhibition we highlighted numerous projects that are currently happening or are in progress at our school campus and within our school community. It was important that the judges were able to see our initiative physically.

One of the biggest challenges we faced as a Eco-Soc team was finding achievable ways for every student in our school to have the opportunity to participate in our events. Our aim was for our events to engage students from any age range. To overcome this challenge, we planned creative activities like gardening during the school breaks which was open to any student from any age who wanted to participate.

By working together on these projects, we personally learned that every person, no matter their age, can have the power to have an impact on a large scale. I also think that if you see an opportunity to enact change try and always go for it because you never know how well it could go.

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