Thousands of young people around the world dream about landing a big internship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States. They take physics and astronomy, study for tests, and memorize the names of faraway galaxies. Rarely does their preparation include something as unconventional as firefighting.
Meshal is as unconventional as it gets. After graduating from high school, he spent four years as a firefighter with Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, while studying English and saving money to study abroad. When Meshal secured a scholarship to study engineering at San Jose State University in California, he hang up his fire hose and followed his heart. On the West Coast far away from family and friends, he found someone to be inspired by – SOS Season Two alumnus Ahmed Al Ghazi, now a successful entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.
The rest is history. Meshal landed an internship with NASA focusing on the simulation of microgravity and a spot as a candidate in Stars of Science. This whiz kid only leaves the SOS labs for a conference call with his NASA colleagues in the United States. It is a lot to juggle. But if anyone is up to it, it’s Meshal.
Each year, Saudi Arabia welcomes two-and-a-half million members of the worldwide Ummah, or community of Muslims, for the Islamic pilgrimage Hajj in Mecca. The largest annual gathering of people in the world inevitably poses a gargantuan logistical challenge. Pilgrims must perform a series of rituals and travel between different locations. Especially in ‘Tent City’ Mina, where more than 100,000 tents provide shelter for the million pilgrims, it is easy to get lost.
In his student days, Meshal was one of many volunteers who guided and assisted pilgrims. “Helping usher people during their pilgrimage to Mecca truly resonated with my personality. I love the different languages, ethnicities, and cultures, and it showed me the global nature of Islam. This experience sparked the idea for a device that could assist pilgrims get around faster, easier, and safer.”
Meshal envisions a Hajj Navigation Bracelet that will use Bluetooth and GPS technology to ensure pilgrims can find their way around Mecca. It will save the user’s vital information, point them in the direction of the Qibla, and above all assist with navigation to the user’s ‘home base.’ Meshal believes his project will help pilgrims to be more spiritually connected to the Hajj, without having to worry about losing their way.
“Technology can be employed to address huge logistical challenges in innovative ways. The Hajj Navigation Bracelet could be the key to a more spiritually rewarding, safe Hajj,” said Meshal.
Enhances the spiritual experience of pilgrims coming to Mecca by reducing confusion, streamlining the navigational aspects of the pilgrimage, and assisting the organizers through data from the bracelet in the event of an emergency.