After rubbing shoulders with over 100 bright minds from around Asia, the young Omani student is in awe of her moments in Singapore. Hasan al Lawati meets the Muscat girl to share her life in the fast lane.
Driving a car you have designed and built from scratch is an incredible experience, but when you need to take the machine you have breathed life into all the way to Singapore and hit the tracks there, the thrills come with a round of tough tests, stiff challenges and inherent uncertainties.
The 22-year-old student from Oman did just that in March, but the excitement of living a dream along with and against more than a hundred like-minded guys and girls from around Asia is still fresh in her mind, six months down the line.
When Alshifa Abdullah al Hadi, dressed in heavy overalls, hit the Shell Eco-marathon track in Singapore, she became the first Omani girl to drive at the Asian round of the global competition.
Shell Eco-marathon is a fierce yet friendly contest that attracts young engineers and students from around the world to show off their skills at designing and building vehicles that would go the farthest miles on the least amount of fuel.
It was so hot and humid in Singapore that the organisers brought down the number of laps the contestants had to do.
Only months before graduating from Gutech, the young lady had a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to take part in Asia’s biggest eco-friendly car competition.
The computer science student is not just a good driver: she is a good designer, too. Alshifaa designed the car’s engine using Arduino, an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software.
She wanted to program the whole car but abandoned the idea to focus on the diesel-run engine, which is the most important part of a vehicle.
Alshifa took three months to design the engine, while the team needed six months to build the car.
“It was a very challenging competition. Despite the limited time and equipment in Oman, we managed to pass eight of the ten stages at technical instruction level,” she said.
Unfortunately, the engine malfunctioned at the eighth stage.
It was her first time to compete in Shell Eco-marathon, and while she has a driving licence in Oman, she was chosen to be the team’s designated driver for another reason as well.
Alshifaa weighed only 53kg at that time, which was only 3kg above the minimum allowed weight (50kg). “The lighter the driver the faster the car goes,” she said.
“Most drivers this year were females, and the ones who weighed below 50kg were asked to add extra (sandbags) weight to the vehicle,” she added.
Alshiffa is thrilled about the support she had received from her family and friends.
The Muscat-born girl said everyone in the university had encouraged her to compete and win. Even the cleaning staff at her college were clapping their hands for the young student to do well in Singapore. “I do remember the cleaning staff who also wished us to make our college proud,” Alshiffa said.
“The event was well-organised and the officials were very strict over the timings,” she said.
“It’s an honour to be part of this whole initiative and it’s a proud moment for me and my family,” she added.
Her team was honoured by Shell Oman in September at a ceremony to appreciate the student’s teams that represented Oman in Shell Eco-marathon 2017.
The event was held under the patronage of Sayyida Mona Al Said, assistant vice chancellor for international cooperation, Sultan Qaboos University.
The teams from Sultan Qaboos University and German University of Technology were among more than 120 teams from various colleges in Asia, Middle East, and Australia who gathered for a four-day event to showcase, test and compete with their eco-friendly and fuel-efficient cars.
At the ceremony, the Omani teams presented their experience from the competition in Singapore. Following that, they were recognised at the ceremony for their participation in the global challenge.
Oman Air was also recognised for the logistical support it provided to the two teams.
A group of Omani enterprises such as Engineering for Kids and Innovation Factory, Oman Cables and Turbo team have partnered with the teams and sponsored them.