Teenage ‘Newton of Gaza’ creates system to light up family tent

Published February 8, 2024
Displaced Palestinian teenager Hussam Al-Attar, nicknamed by people ‘Newton’, works on wind turbines, that he uses to light up his shelter during power cut, at a tent camp in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 6. — Reuters
Displaced Palestinian teenager Hussam Al-Attar, nicknamed by people ‘Newton’, works on wind turbines, that he uses to light up his shelter during power cut, at a tent camp in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 6. — Reuters

RAFAH: Using two fans he picked up from a scrap market and rigged to some wires, teenager Hussam Al-Attar has created his own source of electricity to light up the tent where he and his family are living after being displaced by Israel’s assault on Gaza.

In recognition of his ingenuity, people in the surrounding tent camp have given him a nickname: Gaza’s Newton.

“They started calling me Gaza’s Newton due to the similarity between me and Newton,” said Al-Attar, who looks and sounds young for his 15 years.

“Newton was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell on his head and he discovered gravity. And we here are living in darkness and tragedy, and rockets are falling on us, therefore I thought of creating light, and did so.”

English scientist Isaac Newton, who made immense advances in physics, mathematics and astronomy in the late 17th and early 18th century, stands out in the popular imagination due to the story of the apple.

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are now crammed into Rafah, on the southern edge of the strip by the fence separating it from Egypt. The Al-Attar family have attached their tent to the flank of a one-storey house, allowing Hussam to climb onto the roof and set up his two fans, one above the other, to act as tiny wind turbines capable of charging batteries.

He then connected the fans to wires travelling down through the house, and used switches, lightbulbs and a thin piece of plywood extending out into the tent to create a bespoke lighting system for his family. He said his first two attempts failed and it took him a while to develop the system until he got it to work on the third try.

“I started developing it further, bit by bit, until I was able to extend the wires through the room to the tent that we are living in, so that the tent will have light,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2024

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