Bank of Beirut Supports Young Lebanese Inventors
Posted on 12/11/2015

Three 17-year-old inventors—Carlo Karam, Samy el-Khoury, and Walid Behlok— from Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour created a surveillance drone that scans ski slopes for fallen skiers and transmits this information in real-time back to a central computer. The officer overseeing the computer can then access photos of the target, pinpoint location, and intervene accordingly. This invention won them top honors at a recent competition in Poland and will see them through an upcoming contest in Kuwait. 

As part of its mission to support and further the educational well-being of Lebanese youth, Bank of Beirut is sponsoring the trio in line with its campaigns #BoBCommittedtoYouth and #BoBEmpowerYouth.
Bank of Beirut’s Danielle Issa had the opportunity to sit down with the three scholars. Read on to find out what they had to say about their work and future endeavors. 

1.    What inspired this invention?

When we first joined the technology program in Jamhour, we were told to come up with a project that could compete against other projects in various local and international competitions. We were brainstorming ideas, and then, tragedy hit us. We lost a friend’s sister, Melanie Freiha, due to a ski slope accident. So we decided to come up with a project that could help cases like this.

2.    Tell us more about the assembly of the drone and how you programmed it.

Our actual invention is not the drone in itself. It’s more the program that is capable of analyzing the video that the drone sends to the base station to assess if a skier has fallen down or not. We had the logic to do the programming, so we translated our language to the Matlab language and wrote a perfectly well-functioning program. With time, one competition after the other, we were able to enhance the program and make it a lot faster and a lot more precise. We started with 40% accuracy, and actually we are now at 92% or 93%.

3.    Were you able to test your device for functionality? Given that it’s not snow or ski season, how did you simulate a trial run to the judges at the International Warsaw Invention Show (IWIS) where you competed in October?

You can test the drone on any terrain. We have performed trials here in our laboratory at Jamhour, as well as outdoors on the lawn. Since we began our first prototype development back in April, which was after ski season, we haven’t yet been able to experiment with the drone in the field it was intended for.

4.    What are the various categories for invention submission at the IWIS, and how many participants competed in your category? Were they generally high school or university students, or was it open to all ages?

There are around 20 different categories, and we competed against 50-60 other inventions under the Technology umbrella. The entire invention show drew inventors from nearly 25 countries, representing nearly 600 submissions. The majority of participants were university and graduate school students, as well as professionals in their fields. We were certainly the youngest.

5.    What was the proudest moment you experienced at the IWIS?

We were humbled by the diversity of other inventions on display at the IWIS, so winning the gold medal in the Technology category really felt like an accomplishment for us. We were so happy simply to participate, but coming home with an award was a second prize in itself.

6.    Do you foresee any other applications for your device, besides detecting ski accidents early-on?

Our project is also applicable in deserts, oceans and seas. We are also currently developing an application so that we can create a platform to use our algorithm effectively in households.

7.    Fill us in on the Kuwait Young Inventors Program in which you will be soon participating.

We are going to Kuwait this Sunday (November 15), and the competition lasts for three days. The main award is the “Young Inventor of the Year” that the Wepro association from Geneva gives to the project they believe to be the best among young inventors.

8.    How would you say College Jamhour promoted or supported your interest in inventing?

Our instructor, Mr. Sadek Bark, who teaches physics and heads the Technology Lab, has encouraged our interest in the design and development of the drone device. Moreover, the school administration puts at our disposal the tools and resources to test the limits of our imagination and pursue learning outside the classroom. For that we are truly grateful.

9.    It is college application season, and no doubt you are in the midst of frantically filling out many applications for fall 2016 admission. What degree programs are you applying to, local and/or abroad?

Sami: I intend to remain in Lebanon and apply to the AUB to pursue an engineering degree.

Walid: I want to study electrical engineering in the USA. I’ve applied to UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA, and Stanford.

Carlo: I have chosen a field that is not available in Lebanon, and that is aerospace engineering. Therefore, I am applying to universities abroad, namely Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Purdue, and Georgia Tech.

10.How do you feel about Bank of Beirut’s strong support of your invention?

Bank of Beirut’s support is very important in two areas. The financial area is clear: the project is very expensive, as parts are not cheap. Second, we can’t forget the psychological support that we get because BOB is sponsoring the youth. We go with a lot of pride and a lot of confidence, and in a certain way, we are surer of winning and succeeding. 

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