Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Shahveez wins inaugural ludo championship

Forty-two contestants from a wide age-bracket participated in the event. PHOTO: NEFER SEHGAL / EXPRESS
KARACHI: Fourteen-year-old Shahveez Javeri outplayed 41 other contestants to come out victorious at the inaugural Royal Rodale Ludo Tournament yesterday.
Javeri, who remained unbeaten in the tournament, beat Uzair Sajjid in the final. Earlier, Javeri had defeated the 30-year-old Shaheryar Zakir to book a place against Sajjid. In the third place playoff match Faizan Ahmed outplayed Zakir.
The tournament, played on a knockout basis, featured 21 games on 12 tables. Javeri was delighted at winning the tournament and believed that luck had favoured him.
“It’s awesome, I knew I would win because luck was on my side today,” Javeri told The Express Tribune. “I play ludo regularly and I thought taking part in the event could just be another way of enjoying one of my favourite board games. That’s why I entered the competition.”
According to the tournament organiser and the Royal Rodale event manager Mohammad Haroon, the idea behind holding a ludo championship was to bring people together to enjoy a game that is played all over the country.
“Ludo is a game that everyone plays while growing up and it gives a lot of enjoyment,” said Haroon. “I researched to see if any ludo tournaments happen in the country regularly and found that there is only one tournament that had taken place last year. As ludo is a popular board game, we decided to hold a tournament for it but never expected so many people to participate in it. We’re now thinking about making the event a regular feature at the club.”
- Express Tribune

Monday, 12 December 2011

11-year-old Sitara Akbar sets world record in O-level

Sitara Akbar. (Photo: Web)
By Hammad Suriya

CHINIOT: 11 year old resident of Chiniot, Sitara Akbar set a world record by passing O-level Mathematics, Science and English. This is not the first time that she had amazed everyone with her intelligence. She had passed O-level Chemistry in nine years and O-level at the age of 10, striking a record in Pakistan.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Positive Pakistani: Call of duty

From a primary school in Lyari to Yale’s School of Medicine, Dr Junaid Razzak’s story is an inspiring one.

Think of an ambulance and the first image that comes to mind is a white Suzuki Bolan painted with a red cross. No wonder then that the Aman Foundation’s sleek, bright yellow ambulances stand out among the fume-spewing buses, noisy rickshaws, and death-defying motorcyclists on Karachi’s chaotic roads.
You must often have spotted one tearing through unrelenting traffic, rushing the sick and injured to a hospital. In a city rife with medical emergencies, where target killings, bomb blasts and road accidents are a daily occurrence, these vehicles save many precious lives. How this network of ambulances was established is an inspiring story which starts with an ambitious boy, Junaid Razzak, who rose from humble origins.

Today, Razzak is a renowned emergency medicine expert and the executive director of the Aman Foundation. He started his schooling at a humble primary school in Lyari, completing his secondary education from Nasira School in Depot Lines. Not one to be held back, the hard-working student subsequently attended Adamjee Science College where his impressive grades and unbounded enthusiasm won him a scholarship at the prestigious Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), the top private medical institution in the country.

It was in his fourth year of medical school that Razzak discovered his true calling: emergency medicine. “Fourth year is the time when you choose your field. Most of my fellow students went abroad for internships, but I stayed back and spent time in the emergency room at AKUH,” he says.
It was time well spent. When he saw the sorry state of emergency medicine, Razzak was driven to bring about changes in the field. He graduated from AKUH in 1994, but his interest in emergency medicine only grew.
In collaboration with the Edhi Ambulance Service, an arm of the philanthropic Edhi organisation and the largest volunteer ambulance network in the world, he researched and analysed road traffic injuries and emergency cases. Edhi had a mountain of documentation for every call and every case it had handled in the last two decades. The downside? None of it was digitised, so he spent days sifting through it manually.
The experience stayed with him, and the data revealed a disturbing pattern. Gruesome injuries, often suffered by the poorest members of society, were often improperly handled by well-meaning doctors, simply because of a lack of know-how. These mistakes frequently, and literally, led to the loss of life and limb.
Yet, Razzak soon realised that he needed more professional training and specialisation courses before he could progress further. He sat for the US Medical Licensing Exams (MLE) and had observations at the Beth Israel Medical Centre, New York, and the Yale-New Haven Hospital, Connecticut. In 1996, his residency and training programme at Yale University’s School of Medicine started and in 1999, he was given the ‘Best Trainee’ award by the State of Connecticut.
On the personal front, Yale was also important for the doctor since he met his future wife there. Following graduation, the two stayed in the US for a few years, always looking forward to the time when they would return home. “The plan was always to come back,” says Razzak. “That’s why we never bought a house, never completely settled in.”
Before they could come back, Razzak did his PhD in Public Health at the world-renowned Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, where he focused on the use of ambulance data for monitoring road traffic accidents. Finally, in 2005, the studious boy from Kharadar returned to Pakistan as a successful, qualified expert in emergency medicine.
He joined his alma mater, AKUH as a faculty member and went on to successfully found Pakistan’s first emergency medicine service (EMS) training programme at the university. “There were many doctors who were awarded their degrees without ever administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as it wasn’t a requirement,” he reveals.
This changed when his EMS programme became a mandatory rotation that all students had to serve. Subsequently, Razzak went on to build and head a new emergency department. Yet, the battle was just half won. Students in the new department faced a dilemma, similar to the one Razzak had as a student. They were required to go to the United Kingdom to sit for their exam, otherwise they would not be considered qualified.
“We had trainees, but no exams here,” he says. “If these students couldn’t sit for their exams here, they weren’t qualified on paper and therefore couldn’t be hired as consultants.”
Determined to remove, for others, the hurdles that he himself had crossed only after many toils, Razzak collaborated with the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) to organise a curriculum for the specialised field. The first batch for this course was enrolled last year.  Now students wanting to specialise in emergency medicine will be able to obtain certification in their chosen field, without having to travel abroad.
“I consider this a major achievement,” he says with a smile. “I don’t think there is any country that requires this specialisation more than us, with all the natural disasters, deteriorating law and order situation and terrorist attacks that we face.”
At just 40, this medical expert has achieved what most people can only dream of in a lifetime, but he still has big plans for the future. Razzak will shortly launch a tele-health service for Aman Foundation and dreams of building a world-class health facility in Pakistan. It seems that nothing is impossible for this inspirational doctor.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

LUMS professor receives Google Faculty Research Award

Dr Umar Saif has been recognised by Google for his research work funded by the US State Department. PHOTO: MIT

Dr Umar Saif, the Associate Professor for Computer Science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), who was receognised by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) earlier this year, has been awarded the prestigious Google Faculty Research Award.
A statement released on LUMS website read that Dr Saif had been awarded for his research work, funded by the US State Department.
The Google Faculty award aims to provide funding to full-time faculty working on research in areas of mutual interest with Google. The second round of awards saw funding of 119 awards across 21 different focus areas for a total of six million dollars. The subject areas that received the highest level of support this time were systems and infrastructure, human-computer interaction, social and mobile. In addition, 24% of the funding was awarded to universities outside the US.
The US$ 100,000 Google Faculty Research Award makes Dr Saif the first faculty member in a Pakistani university to receive the competitive grant, awarded for the low-cost rural telephony systems that he has been working on for the past three years along with colleagues at UC Berkeley.
His collaborators on the research, in the Systems and Infrastructure category, include Tapan Parikh, Assistant Professor at the iSchool at UC Berkeley.
Dr Saif had earlier in the year been recognised by the MIT Technology Review as one of their top 35 innovators (TR35) for 2011. The list honours technologies for the developing-world which are being used by millions of people. He was awarded for the applications BitMate – that enhances the speed of Internet in the developing-world using peer-to-peer technology, and SMSall.pk – Pakistan’s largest SMS Social Network which has sent close to 4 billion SMS for users in Pakistan.
Dr Saif is currently on leave from LUMS, working as the Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB).


Friday, 2 December 2011

Young achiever: 16-year-old develops “Multi Texter” for Android smart phones

Sherjil has also developed other applications, which include an Urdu writing application. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, without any glasses or a gadget in his hand, Sherjeel Shabih, does not, at all, look like a stereotypical technology geek.  But at only 16 years, he has developed a bulk text messaging application for Android smart phones.
The application, “Multi Texter”, enables sending a bulk of text messages to multiple contacts at once. The user does not have to go back to the inbox and select each message to forward individually. It is available on the Android application market for free.
“I developed the software in only three weeks in July,” beamed Sherjil. “No other application on Android phones provide this option.” He shows off the application on his HTC phone.
According to Sherjil, he and his friends always found forwarding messages individually a big hassle. “But now, we simply select the messages and send it to multiple contacts at the same time.”
The application also has other features. It can be used to search messages by its subject or the sender’s name, just like email. One can also save custom messages, edit and then resend them. The unsent messages can also be viewed. But according to its developer, the application can also be misused to send “SMS bombs”.
Sherjil said that he paid $25 to upload the application. But it is free for the users. So far 2,860 people downloaded Multi Texter, most of them in the US.
“Just as kids love to watch television I love to make programmes,” said the young application developer. “While others might find programming difficult and dull, for me it is a hobby.”
Sherjil was only a year-and-a-half-old when he got his V-tech, a child’s laptop. His love for technology kept growing and he moved on to basic programming on his V-tech when he was only eight. He developed websites and internet application before moving on to Windows programming.  In his short 16 years, Sherjil has also developed other applications, which include an Urdu writing application. During the semi final of Pakistan and India during the last World Cup he developed an application for sending the words “Out, four and sixer” with a single key, he added.
Strangely, the teenager never sought professional help. “Every programming language has resources and code samples which are available on the internet,” he said. “They were my only tutors.”
While Sherjil sends a good amount of time on his laptop and phone, he makes sure his studies are not neglected. He loves to dance hip-hop and play the African drums, something he picked up from his early life in Ivory Coast, where his father was stationed.
His mother said that she was proud of her “genius” child.  “He’s an all-rounder,” she said.  Though I don’t understand much about computers and phones, whatever he does makes me very happy.”
Sherjil is indeed a brilliant programmer but he does not want to pursue it as a career. “I want to do a PhD in nanotechnology.” But for now, he said, he will keep on making applications for the benefit of people.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2011.