Two teams of pre-medical students from Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q) have been highly commended after creating solutions to two problems highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the mentorship of Dr Majda Sebah, a lecturer in the Division of Pre-Medical Education at WCM-Q, the students entered the National Artificial Intelligence Competition organised by Hamad Bin Khalifa University and Qatar University. Each team entered in one of two categories: Track 1 – concept and design and Track 2 – proof of concept and demonstrations.

The WCM-Q students were shortlisted in the final round, competing with over 1,000 teams.

Track 1

For track 1, the three participating students in the team – Maryam Arabi, Lina Ahmed and Yousef Al-Najjar – examined how artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to improve healthcare during the pandemic. Due to social distancing and the fear of infection, people were avoiding surgeries, potentially putting themselves at risk if they have a medical condition that needs treatment.

The three students came up with the idea of using drone technology that would allow doctors to examine patients remotely. The drone will be able to take vital signs and perform non-invasive procedures and an algorithm – written by the students – would then decide whether medical intervention is needed.

Arabi explained that they started doing extensive research about the most developed technologies currently used across the world as well as the emerging use of telemedicine. She said that once they found a gap in the market and understood the needs of doctors, they spent months designing, revising and evaluating the idea of MediDrone to produce a device that would bring clinical procedures – commonly conducted in hospitals – to the patient’s home.

I believe this competition was invaluable as it opened prospects in innovation, and this achievement would not have been possible without the constant guidance and support of Dr Sebah.

Track 2

For track 2 – proof of concept and demonstrations – the student team whose members include Al Dana Al-Khalaf, Leena Aboidris and Mohammed Al-Ansari – showed how AI could be used in an educational setting, expanding upon the parameters of Calvin, an online ‘lab assistant’ that allows students to perform practical experiments even when away from the laboratory using a text editor programme to write experimental commands for Calvin to interpret.

The technology for Calvin was created by Dr Melissa Hines of Cornell University and offers a virtual simulation of any given chemistry experiment. It incorporates equipment, instructional codes, and results allowing students to have a practical experience online. A student must direct Calvin each step of the way through the experiment, with Calvin providing data for students to critically analyse and arrive at a conclusion.

To further expand the system, Dr Sebah had collaborated with Dr Hines to write new codes for the software by setting up experimental parameters for a chemical kinetics experiment, which is the study of reaction rates and how they are impacted by factors such as pressure, temperature and concentration. WCM-Q students set out to test and prove that Calvin, with the necessary coding, can potentially offer an effective online learning platform.

Team member Al-Dana Al-Khalaf said it had been a valuable learning experience, an eye-opening experience for her and her team.

My team and I became aware of the extensive process that an academic research paper goes through. I believe that this competition equipped us with the necessary tools required for academic writing that I will incorporate in my future research papers.

Dr Sebah, who worked closely with both teams, said that the competition has allowed the students to find possible solutions for the current challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that the students’ contributions to the advancement of science and technology in the area of emerging AI technologies in Qatar will undoubtedly have a great impact in the near future.

It was an incredibly tasking competition, consisted of several phases from idea submission, solution design, project testing and demos, and finally shortlisting of projects. For the students to get shortlisted for the final round is an incredible achievement.

The overall experience, according to Dr Sebah, had been interesting for all the students and had given them an insight into research and the practical challenges of theoretical design. The students worked exceptionally hard to examine how their solutions would work in the real world.

For more information about the research programme at WCM-Q, visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu


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