BY ANAAM IKRAM
127 bottles of nail polish sprawled across the table, one upset sibling and still not the right colour of varnish to be found. This was the situation that inspired talented Bahraini Computer Engineer Alaa Abdulraheem to create the award-winning device that could produce any desired colour of nail polish. The innovator and entrepreneur spoke to Perle Magazine about her machine and the series of accolades it has collected in the short period of time since its conception.
The fresh Computer Engineering graduate from the University of Bahrain was tasked with creating a senior design project for her a course when she came across her sister trying to find the perfect hue of nail polish but to her disappointment could not. The young innovator decided to use that dire situation and create something that would not only help her sister, and be a good course project, but also something than can be beneficial for every woman. Thus combining her love for fashion and her savvy computer engineering skills, Alaa created the Nail Polish Mixer.
Being able to produce any colour in less than 50 seconds and in three different types (glossy, matte and glitter), the Nail Polish Mixer is a two-part device that is designed to read and produce a specifically desired colour. The invention is divided into hardware and software, with the actual machine itself being the hardware and the mobile application that transmits the select-colour to the device in three various ways: the first is by selecting the colour from a “colour dialogue” present in the application and is user-friendly; the second is by putting in the RGB values if the user is working from a program such as Photoshop; and the third is by connecting a scanning device to the Nail Polish Mixer that scans the colour of anything to produce the exact same nail polish colour. The application itself has also been divided into sections for the public and the salons, where salons can register under the application and the public can book appointments, see the availability of a certain facility and even if there is a long queue or not. The multifunction product has ensured that time and budget conscious women can easily manage themselves.
Though creating the project was not easy, Alaa says she is glad to have taken this challenge and not only complete it but also be awarded on a regional and international scale for it. Alaa says initially when she discussed the idea with her professors about creating such a machine; they were hesitant about her going ahead with the idea. “No one took it seriously, they told me to come back with a real project”, she says. Alaa says her other challenge came from her friends who insisted computer engineering is not for girls. Alaa’s determination and creative mindset lead to fusing together “beauty” and “brains” to prove herself. However, her challenges didn’t end there. After the completion of Nail Polish Mixer for her university, Alaa was encouraged to turn her project in to a real useable and through the help of government entities such as Tamkeen and BDB, she was able to make that dream come true. Her working prototype product was entered into the 2014 Bahrain Imagine Cup in the ‘Innovators’ category, where she won first place. She then travelled to the 2014 Pan Arab Imagine Cup competition in Qatar in the same category, where once again she was awarded first place and was given the opportunity to represent Bahrain and the Arab world in the International Imagine Cup 2014 in Seattle, USA. Alaa’s creativity and unique idea won her third place in Seattle, making Bahrain the first Arab country to have ever placed since the beginning of the competition in 2003. “I was worried what if I didn’t win? People were coming to me and saying ‘Alaa do this for us, please don’t lose.’ I was so nervous what if I didn’t place at all? But thankfully I did and it shows everyone that the Arab youth have great ideas and we can work hard to make them happen”, she says.
Overcoming her difficulties and achieving what only a few have at Alaa’s age, the young inventor and entrepreneur was also awarded a prize for her pioneering work by the King His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa. The occasion was particularly special, Alaa recalls, as not only was she recognised for her work but was presented with a high honour by the King, and also because it was on Bahrain’s National Day, December 16, 2014. “I was so honoured that a young lady like me can get this award. I am so thankful for Bahrain, that they are supporting the young females and the youth of Bahrain” she says. Looking to set up her own factory to improve her machine further, Alaa says she hopes to have the product in the market by end of 2015 or beginning of 2016.
Currently teaching the leadership program by Tamkeen, called “Mulham”, Alaa says after she is done working on Nail Polish Mixer she already has another project she will focus on. Always making sure she is working on something innovative and creative, it is no surprise that even at this young age, Alaa has managed to achieve so much success.
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