Houston, TX (January 20, 2024) – Two remarkable teams of young Shia Muslim girls from Al-Hadi School in Houston, Texas, defied stereotypes and ignited the Future City Competition at NASA's Johnson Space Center this past weekend. Their electrifying city design for "Nyanza-Sagara" (NYS) captivated the audience and showcased the power of inclusivity and innovation in STEM fields. This holistic approach to urban planning, prioritizing both environmental and human well-being, earned them well-deserved recognition for their "Best Transportation Ideas," a testament to their meticulous planning and creative ingenuity.
"It's huge to have Shia representation here. It means the world to me. It's such an honor, we're the only Muslims here, and to be Shia," expressed Sr. Siddiqua Shahnawaz, an educator with five years of experience in the competition. Her pride is palpable, reflecting the significance of seeing young Shia girls excelling in a traditionally non-inclusive space.
The Future City Competition challenges middle school students across the nation to design a fully electric future city powered by clean, green, and renewable energy sources. Amidst this prestigious competition, Mariam B (grade 8), Maryam E, Sabira, and Fatima B (all grade 7) stood out not only for their exceptional talent but also for being the only Muslim and all-female team present. Their groundbreaking representation proved that the future of STEM belongs to those who dare to dream and defy expectations.
The impact of these young women transcended the realm of technical brilliance. As the only Muslim and all-female team amidst the competition, they shattered stereotypes and defied expectations, proving that young women from minority communities can not only thrive in STEM fields but also become trailblazers, paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable future. Their unwavering confidence and independent spirit shone through, as exemplified by Sabira's dedication, staying up at 2 am while on vacation to attend a crucial meeting – a testament to their unwavering passion for the project.
Their captivating presentation transported the audience to NYS, a city pulsating with vibrant sustainability and cutting-edge technology. Every building boasted LEED Platinum certification, humming with self-sufficiency while producing net-zero carbon emissions. Inspired by their African heritage, the girls seamlessly blended traditional Rugo styles with futuristic elements, creating an architectural tapestry both energy-efficient and culturally distinct.
But NYS wasn't just about beauty – it was a tangible vision for a seamlessly accessible and environmentally conscious future. Designated lanes for pedestrians, cyclists, and autonomous cars formed a harmonious network, while high-speed maglev trains and futuristic hover-tech water taxis glided silently through the cityscape. Vertical farms soared skyward, maximizing space and minimizing environmental impact, while precision farming and aquaponic systems nourished the city with locally grown, sustainable food.
"This will make the girls so strong. I'm so proud of how they did everything on their own, when there tends to be so much spoon feeding," shared a Future City mentor, a testament to the girls' independent spirit and self-reliance.
Fuelling this vibrant ecosystem was RIS(E)², a groundbreaking framework for clean energy developed by a dedicated council of young scientists and engineers. This innovative system harnessed the power of nature, transforming sunshine into solar energy, wind into kinetic power, and the rushing waters of Lake Tanganyika into hydroelectric might. This ambition resonated not only in NYS's self-sufficiency but also in its message of a future free from fossil fuel dependence.
But NYS extended far beyond blueprints and models. It stood as a testament to the girls' unwavering dedication to creating a city for all. Advanced healthcare systems utilized wearable chips for real-time health monitoring and integrated practices for holistic well-being. Cutting-edge education employed Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, offering immersive and interactive learning experiences. Drone monitoring, Internet of Things integration, and robust cybersecurity measures ensured the safety and security of every citizen, forging a community where technology empowered rather than divided.
The NYS presentation was not just a showcase of technical prowess and creative vision; it was a beacon of hope and an embodiment of unwavering representation. These young Shia Muslim girls did not just compete; they inspired. They shattered stereotypes, defied expectations, and proved that passion, perseverance, and inclusivity can light the path towards a brighter tomorrow. NYS may not have claimed the top prize, but its impact resonates far beyond the walls of the competition. It stands as a vibrant testament to the future these brave young women are already electrifying.
The Shia Muslim Foundation is proud to celebrate the achievements of these remarkable young women and applauds their commitment to innovation, inclusivity, and environmental sustainability. Their journey serves as an inspiration to young Shia Muslims everywhere, demonstrating that anything is possible with dedication and a passion for shaping a better future.