Startup Spotlight: UAE-Based Frontier Is Enabling Easier Access To Space-Related Education
Launched with a vision to "push the frontiers of space science" in an interactive way, Frontier offers a hybrid gamified learning model, available in both Arabic and English.
This article is part of an ongoing series covering startups that have been a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program.
To "make gamified learning on space sciences accessible to a million students across the GCC for a monthly cost equivalent to that of buying a single shawarma"- that is the goal Abu Dhabi-based educational platform Frontier sees itself achieving in a few years' time. "As content curators and publishers of true space science education in both English and Arabic, Frontier pushes the boundaries of the existing education system towards space," co-founder Dr. Mohammed Adnan says. "Having already catered to over 4,000 students worldwide, we provide fun, engaging, holistic interactive experiential space education -curated by scientists- to grow new generations of scientists."
Dr. Adnan launched Frontier in 2021 alongside co-founders H.E. Dr. Ali AlHammadi and Fraih AlQubaisi with a vision to "push the frontiers of space science" by providing a more interactive avenue of education on the topic. How it aims to achieve that is by providing children with a hybrid gamified learning model, available in both Arabic and English. "Science is not just a word in the textbook, but the process of understanding the universe through controlled experiments," Dr. Adnan says. "Surely, you can't read a textbook to become a Formula One driver; you become one through experience and experiments- it's science! So, how can our current education system teach science by making the next generation read textbooks?" Dr. Adnan's argument makes sense in a world where edtech has made the process of teaching solely through textbooks slightly obsolete, and it's particularly true in domains like space science, where hands-on learning is perhaps just as important as, if not more than, theoretical learning.
As someone who has worked with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (aka NASA) during his university days, Dr. Adnan doesn't seem to be out of place in his role at the helm of a venture like Frontier. "I live and breathe space!" he says. "My work over the years has been experimental, and, in fact, my work on neural electrodes was once cited by Elon Musk as well. I was inspired by the endeavors taken by the UAE to inspire the next generation and the Arab nation towards a space-faring era, but the science currently taught in schools is frankly mundane and catered towards crossing lists in the curriculum. I thus combined my expertise in turning complex language simple with my passion to teach science experientially, and along with my friend H.E. Dr. AlHammadi, who is also the firm's president now, launched Frontier Learning Solutions."
When one lands (pun intended!) on the Frontier website, the homepage will direct them to a range of age-wise "space camps" and "space clubs" that they can choose from. The Astronaut Academy for students aged 6-11, and Mars Coding Academy for students aged 10-15 are examples of space camps, while the space clubs section includes an Astromini Space Club for students as young as four.
As for the impact these programs have, Dr. Adnan has his answer ready. "The students who successfully completed the Hope Academy were able to understand the functions of the different sensors of the Emirates Mars Mission's Hope Probe, and combine sensor readings to create images well before the images of Mars were published," he notes. "We were delighted to hear that our students were able to grasp that science and math is indeed used in the real world! This is how we push the boundaries from the UAE towards space."
According to Dr. Adnan, Frontier has, as a B2C platform, so far amassed revenues worth US$100,000, with its services reaching more than 4,000 students within just a year of its launch. And given its aspirations to reach more students in the UAE and the wider region, the startup hopes to eventually start working with schools across the Middle East. That Frontier's content is easy to adapt across schools of all sizes is what truly makes the firm's business proposition so exciting, adds Dr. Adnan. "Our platform and content is scalable to create competitive classes and camps for any school or school systems who can host in both English and Arabic," he says. "Our science contents have also been handcrafted in house using a hybrid model, enabling customers to access our contents through the comfort of their schools or any device. It's easy for teachers to sign up, use our materials, and apply them for space camps and courses!"
Source: Frontier Learning Solutions
Today, Frontier can also boast of a list of reputed local and international partners such as the UAE Space Agency, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, Abu Dhabi-based satellite communication company Yahsat, European multinational corporation Airbus, geospatial solutions provider Farmin, and Abu Dhabi-headquartered education group Aldar Education. "Now that our business has proven to be successful, we are now scaling up to B2B2C to integrate our contents and methods into other entities too, which means our bespoke solution can now be used by our partners as well," Dr. Adnan says. "Our growth rate also indicates that we could reach a value of at least $15 million as our scalable platform reaches international borders. We would love to get the word out there to like-minded investors and partners to join us as we continue to push the frontiers of space sciences."
Self-funded thus far, Frontier has made use of bootstrapping to run and grow its operations. And as the company now strives to find investors and to scale its services as well, Dr. Adnan admits that even reaching this stage of the business has come with its fair share of challenges. "The challenge about a young startup ecosystem is that the infrastructure is still going through a culture shock," he explains. "Existing businesses often do not see the value in supporting ambitious startups born and raised in the UAE, despite having a positive track record."
It is here that Dr. Adnan lauds the role of the MBRIF accelerator program in amplifying Frontier's endeavors. "We are now in the MBRIF to show the world that we are ready to scale up into schools," Dr. Adnan says. "But the best part of joining the MBRIF is that they will support you post-graduation as well! Our company's President is a graduate of the MBRIF, and he gave me all the reasons to join MBRIF. I have definitely gotten a better grasp of what Frontier is selling, all thanks to the valuable sessions hosted by the MBRIF team and its partners."
"To infinity and beyond!" –a popular line from the Toy Story series of movies- is perhaps a good way to describe Frontier's next set of goals for the future. "Space was only reachable through innovation, and we teach students about space using innovations built in-house," Dr. Adnan says "We are now developing tools using student responses to predict questions that will provide the highest retention of learning outcomes. We also do not want to automate the entire process, and so, the human touch in our services will be maintained through the teachers trained to guide and facilitate the students. And as for what's next, look forward to hearing us striking deals with the network and partners of the MBRIF in the next few months!"