With 12 inventions and counting, the future looks bright for the country’s youngest inventor
Fatima Al Kaabi is not your ordinary teenager.
At 15, she is the UAE’s youngest inventor – an honour that became official after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai, bestowed the title to her in 2015 at the Pioneers of UAE awards ceremony.
To date, the Al Ain student has 12 inventions to her name, including a photographer robot, cheerleader robot and an electronic belt for the hearing impaired.
But her most popular creation is the solar bag, a handy charging device compatible with electronic devices, power lights and fans.
And with so much ahead of her, it’s only right to assume that Fatima’s star will continue to shine bright in the coming years as she pursues her love for science and technology.
We chat with the amiable teen to find out more…
How did you develop an interest in technology and inventing?
My dad is an engineer and my mum studied IT, so I was inspired by what they’re doing. My dad loves fixing things; for example if the TV stops working, he’ll figure it out and work on it. They helped me learn the basics.
What was your first invention?
My first invention was the photographer robot in 2012; I was ten years old. I was given a challenge to build a robot within a week and I had no idea how to do it using the equipment I was given. But I took on the challenge and my parents helped me figure out the instructions. It was cool because I enjoy photography and robots so I thought of combining both. So I was able to create this robot capable of taking pictures of me.
Where do your ideas come from?
Every project that I work on, there’s always an inspiration behind it, like something that I experienced or read about. I consult my parents and siblings and we talk about subjects, then I research.
The idea for the solar charging bag came about after my family and I went to the desert and I had nowhere to charge my mobile device.
Did you obtain a patent for your inventions?
The problem is I’m 15 and to patent your invention or ideas here in the UAE you have to be 18. For the past five years I’ve been demanding for a change in the law but for now I haven’t seen any change, so I have to wait a few more years.
The only thing that I can do to protect my ideas and invention is to patent it in the US but even that is a very long process and it requires a lot of money and my parents are the only people funding my projects.
What are your other hobbies outside inventing and robotics?
I love watching movies and reading books. I also enjoy filmmaking and volunteering to teach kids in the community.
Speaking of books and movies, you must love sci-fi…
I don’t enjoy sci-fi movies much but I do enjoy movies that delve on the subject of technology.
There’s this movie, The Circle, which speaks about how technology can take over our lives. I feel like it’s a warning for inventors. So topics that show both the good and bad and advantages of technology always interests me.
There’s this perception that the younger generation of today is lazy because of their attachment to technology. What’s your take on this?
I really don’t buy that. I think if you give them something inspiring to do that aligns with their interests, they will do it. Yes, we are attracted to technologies but if you give kids of today space to be creative, they’re capable of creating wonderful things. I started learning robotics through YouTube, so attachment to technology isn’t a bad thing; it’s actually a great source of ideas and knowledge.
What’s next for you after finishing high school?
I’m thinking of either joining NYUAD or maybe NYU in New York. I’m thinking of taking engineering but I’m also interested in politics, so I’m still weighing my options. But my dream in the future is to create a company that promotes ingenuity and where I can also promote my inventions.