When I was about 12 or 13 I set up a lab in my house. It consisted of an old wooden packing box that I put shelves in. I had a heater, and I'd put in fat and cook french-fried potatoes all the time. I also had a rack full of test tubes, a storage battery, and a microscope. For years, I have loved piddling around in my lab: watching things under the microscope (it took patience, but it was beautiful), mixing some chemicals and watching the colors change, and connecting several bulbs in a series and watching them gloooow -- very pretty! It has been great. I have developed a passion for science. I love how science, just with a handful of equations, can explain the world around me. I love the feeling of excitement when I see my own ideas work. I love the quirkiness, randomness and, above all, elegance of science.
However, as much as I love science, I hated the lack of opportunities available to scientists before the revolution. I was very disappointed that Egypt was not actively contributing in many fields. I told myself with no guilt that there was nothing I could do to change that and that Egypt had been this way for years and it was going to stay the same for many more. I was wrong.
On January 25th, thousands of Egyptians took the streets. It was time for me to leave my lab and join them. We, Egyptians, demanded the right to freedom, to social justice, and to topple a system that had oppressed us for decades. Our revolution changed our lives forever; we made history and inspired millions of people around the world. But perhaps the greatest achievement of the revolution was that it inspired us; it gave us hope and made us believe that we can do anything. It made us believe in ourselves.
The revolution was a fresh start for this ancient country that had been making history for thousands of years and still makes the news today. In our fresh start, we can't blame the government for our problems anymore. We can't say that there is nothing we can do to change anymore. Because in our fresh start, there is! And, we have to be very clear about something: the change we are fighting for will not come from the parliament, or the next president of Egypt. This change will only come from us. The ability to make a difference lies in my hands, your hands, and everybody's hands. That is what the revolution was all about: changing ourselves, being inspired and making a difference.
I was inspired by the revolution. I started looking for the things that I hated about the pre-revolution Egypt and looked for solutions. For months, I couldn't find anything until one day I came across the perfect opportunity: the YouTube Space Lab competition, the global science competition that challenges 14 to 18-year-olds to design a science experiment that can be performed in space. It was the opportunity I was looking for to challenge myself and prove my abilities. In addition, I thought it would be great if Egyptians can send an experiment to space, especially because our contributions to the field of space studies have been negligible.
I started working on my experiment: asking, searching, and reading. I came across a very cool creature: the jumping spider, and decided to choose it as my test subject. Soon, I finished writing a script, shooting the video, editing the footage and uploading my entry.
YouTube Space Lab received thousands of video submissions from more than 80 countries, with two of the finalists hailing from the MENA region: Jaime Costa from Morocco, and me from Egypt (click here to see my submission video!). I was thrilled to know that Egypt is one step closer to sending an experiment to space. Given the unique challenge of designing an experiment that could actually be carried out in space -- something that has traditionally been the mission of qualified astronauts and scientists, I think we have done a good job. We should be very proud.
If we aim to truly develop Egypt and change our lives, we have to strive and be a part of this change we want to see. Do you want to see a change in your life? Make it happen! Join a NGO, start an initiative, form a community, or seize an opportunity (the Internet is full of them). We have to be active in our streets, societies and workplaces. Whether you decide to devote your time and energy to political activity, social development or even to move a lab in your house to space, is up to you. The most important thing is to act, and encourage others to do so.
So, what are you waiting for?!
Amr Mohamed is an 18-year-old high school student in Alexandria, Egypt. He's interested in cool scientific stuff like spiders in space and sharks with laser beams.
Here' the video of my experiment for the YouTube Space Lab competition. If you like it, please vote! Thank you!