At just 22, architectural engineering student Abdulla Al Khalsan may not be as experienced as some of the architects behind Dubai’s Expo 2020, but he’s not letting that stop him.
“I’ve come here today so I can put my stamp on the Expo. I propose we extend the Red Metro line to integrate it with Expo city. Adding to that I suggest we lay down a pathway for a tram too,” he told Khaleej Times at YouthConnect 2016.
More than 1,000 young people came together at Expo 2020 Dubai’s flagship youth event on Saturday, and Al Khalsan was just one among them who brought with him visionary ideas.
“I want to broaden the robotics industry in the UAE,” 17-year-old Mohammad Al Zarouni said.
“If schools and universities invest in this now then it could be integrated into the Expo 2020 and that could really change the face of the event. It would differentiate it from the Expos before it.”
Power of youth
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘the youth of today is the future of tomorrow’. But YouthConnect proved just how reliant the UAE is on its youth.
Speaking to Alia Al Ali, Director of Youth – Expo 2020, she said who better than the young people of today to be the building blocks behind what awaits us tomorrow.
“Expos are known for presenting a new vision and the youth do this. They have the energy that adults have lost.”
By inspiring, empowering and giving youth a platform to share their ideas on making the Expo a success, Ali said it is an exciting time to see exactly what they will do with such an opportunity.
“We want the majority of ideas to come from the youth, whether it be master-planning, mascot building or volunteering.”
This year, YouthConnect introduced the Expo 2020 Youth Labs initiative, which provides participants with the opportunity to explore a range of fields related to Expo 2020 Dubai and its delivery.
In exchange for putting forward their innovative ideas, youths were awarded with a range of different products including smart pads and power docks.
But for 17-year-old Ed Joshua Mindanoa, the opportunity to be a part of the Expo is the biggest reward.
“I think we are capable of running the Expo. This event is all about taking a country forward and that’s our role. I think we should be there, on the ground showing people around. Being a part of the Expo will also give us the opportunity to garner ideas from like-minded people. It’s like a forum for knowledge-sharing.”
Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai, said she believes in the power of youth.
“Today is about discovering the link between your passion and your potential for shaping the world positively. Like us, most of you are likely to spend the vast majority of your daylight hours working at something, so you had better make sure it is something you love.”
This dropout proves it’s not all about grades
For those of you still doubting just how powerful youth can be, look no further than 19-year-old Jihad Kawas.
A college drop out at 17, he is now the founder and CEO of Saily Inc, one of the top shopping apps in the US.
Learning to code at the age of 13, Kawas went on to build websites and apps throughout high school years until making the decision to drop out of education to build his own company.
As a young innovator, he told Khaleej Times it is all about taking decisions on the things you like.
“I am a real advocate of doing the things you love, not the things that are supposed to be done. You have to be bold and you have to ask for things in life.”
Now one of the main players in Silicon Valley, Kawas told getting heard as a young entrepreneur is not as hard as everyone thinks.
“When I dropped out of school people thought it was the worst decision I could have made because no one would listen to a young dropout.”
But that was quite the contrary, he said.
“Great companies are always looking for something different. It’s not all about what grades you have. If you have a great idea, these forward thinking companies will listen.”
And he said if you’re young, it’s a bonus because that means you are “scalable”.
Someone who is passionate about reforms in education, Kawas said there remains a lot of flaws in the educational system today.
“I think we need to focus on teaching skills rather than just teaching information, especially with the information revolution that is the Internet.”
He said house skills are “more valuable than information” nowadays, so this should change accordingly when it comes to the way education is being taught.