Stu­dents’ ‘cool suit’ to help work­ers cope with the heat

▶ Aryam Ahmed, 21, will present her in­ven­tion to a group of in­ter­na­tional busi­ness lead­ers and in­vestors


When en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent Aryam Ahmed saw a con­struc­tion worker pass out in the street from the heat, she de­cided she wanted to solve the prob­lem.

The Emi­rati spent the next two years de­vel­op­ing a suit that will keep out­door work­ers cool, and is now set to pitch her con­cept to an au­di­ence of in­ter­na­tional busi­ness lead­ers and in­vestors.

The 21-year-old was cho­sen as one of the win­ners of the [email protected] Palace ini­tia­tive, a scheme de­signed to en­cour­age Emi­rati en­trepreneur­ship backed by UK royal Prince An­drew.

She hopes her in­ven­tion will help more than one mil­lion out­door work­ers in the UAE to stay more com­fort­able at work and at the same time in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity for busi­nesses.

Armed with one pro­to­type, she has al­ready set her sights on an ex­pan­sion across the GCC.

“It started when we saw a fainted worker on the street and we couldn’t do any­thing about it,” said Ms Ahmed, a Khal­ifa Univer­sity stu­dent from Abu Dhabi.

“As en­gi­neers, it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to find so­lu­tions to prob­lems to help our so­ci­ety.

“I do not just want to show it in the UAE, I want other coun­tries in the world to know about it. It is not only the UAE that needs this so­lu­tion, it is the whole of the GCC. We want to cre­ate some­thing that ev­ery­one can have.

“Em­ploy­ers have a re­spon­si­bil­ity for the health of the work­ers, so will want to re­duce the risks and num­ber of cases. I think they will be open to these so­lu­tions.”

The ma­te­rial she de­vel­oped is low cost and highly ef­fec­tive in main­tain­ing body tem­per­a­ture for up to four hours, Ms Ahmed said. She does not want to re­veal pre­cise de­tails of how the ma­te­rial works, while its patent is pend­ing.

How­ever, she said it has per­formed well in tests and the suit also in­cludes a smart sys­tem that mon­i­tors out­side tem­per­a­tures and a worker’s body tem­per­a­ture, send­ing an alert to the em­ployee’s boss if it reaches 38 de­grees. It also in­cludes a “panic but­ton” so a worker can sum­mon help in an emer­gency.

While oth­ers have at­tempted to in­vent cool­ing suits for out­door labour­ers be­fore, they have often been de­signed with com­pli­cated fans or wa­ter-based cool­ing sys­tems. Ms Ahmed, who de­vel­oped the suit along with her project part­ner Lat­ifa Al Seiari, be­lieves the sim­plic­ity and safety of her de­sign will mean it suc­ceeds where oth­ers have failed.

While cur­rent laws mean com­pa­nies have to al­low out­door work­ers long breaks dur­ing the hottest hours of the day, she said cases of heat-re­lated ill­nesses re­main a ma­jor prob­lem.

She will present her idea at a [email protected] re­gional fi­nal next month in Bahrain. The win­ners of that round will win a place at a global fi­nal in Lon­don in De­cem­ber.

The event is sup­ported by the Khal­ifa Fund for En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment, which en­cour­ages Emi­rati en­trepreneur­ship. It also helps young busi­ness peo­ple with men­tor­ship from suc­cess­ful in­dus­try lead­ers and con­nects them with po­ten­tial in­vestors.

“It has been a great ex­pe­ri­ence, we have talked with many ad­vis­ers and in­vestors,” Ms Ahmed said.

The other UAE win­ners at the [email protected] event were the cre­ators of an Ara­bic lan­guage learn­ing plat­form for chil­dren, an on­line tool to con­nect pa­tients with doc­tors and phar­ma­cies and a home de­sign app.

“It is great to be able to show­case some of the great in­no­va­tion that has been go­ing on in the UAE,” Prince An­drew, who be­gan the scheme in the UK be­fore ex­pand­ing it across the world, said at the event.

“This project is about col­lab­o­ra­tion to help these busi­nesses grow.”

Vic­tor Besa / The Na­tional

Lat­ifa Al Seiari and Aryam Ahmed with the cool­ing suit they de­signed. The ma­te­rial for the suit is low cost

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