Smiles and laughter abounded at Thumbay Hospital in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) when a talking date palm stopped by to visit with patients. Yes, a talking date palm.
Accompanying the chatty plant, dubbed “Um Khammas,” were two of its creators, Salem Marwan and Malak Omar, year-six students from Dubai National School. The two girls made the visit while participating in the 2016 Kalebr #HappyPlant Challenge, which tasked young innovators to design, create, and code an artificially intelligent plant that could spread messages of happiness and sustainability.
Salem, Malak, and their team members, chose a date palm for their project because the plant is viewed as a welcome gift in their region, where it has been a food source for over 8,000 years.
The students brought the date palm to life by coding a “personality” for it on Kalebr’s Challenge platform and connecting it to sensors, an Intel® Curie™ module-powered Genuino* 101 board, and the Internet. Once Um Khammas was live, the students visited Dubai’s Thumbay Hospital and invited patients to converse with the happy plant and receive messages for a speedy recovery.
Participants in the 2016 Kalebr #HappyPlant Challenge created a total of 44 “intelligent” plants. The young innovators gained making, coding, and collaboration skills, and also picked up some key communication skills by promoting their plants on social media. Um Khammas generated 98,000 comments, 62,000 likes, and 507 votes on social media, which resulted in the date palm winning a hotly contested “Most Social” award for plants created during the challenge.
While participating in the Kalebr #HappyPlant Challenge, Malak and Salem not only acquired 21st-century job skills, but also learned a few things about happiness. Salem described patients’ responses to Um Khammas as “touching,” and both girls want to continue spreading happiness in hospitals across the UAE.
Happiness only becomes real when shared.