Posted on July 02, 2016

A team of Qatari high school students who designed a novel innovation to be employed in extracting oil from oil reservoirs took the top prize in the second annual Summer Engineering Academy (SEA), an elite 10-day STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) enrichment program organized and hosted by Texas A&M University at Qatar and Maersk Oil Qatar. The winning team comprised of six students as followed: Fajer Almarzooqi, Fatma Al- Abdulghani, Fay Al-Sulaiti, Moza Al-Kuwari, Saoud Al-Abdulla, and Muneera Al-Sulaiti.

The Summer Engineering Academy is part of the Dhia: Engineering Leaders partnership between Texas A&M at Qatar and Maersk Oil Qatar. Dhia aims to entice young Qataris to choose educational pathways in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), which are critical to the success of the Qatar National Vision 2030. During the academy, 24 academically outstanding grade 11 Qatari students who were named Qatar National Vision Scholars worked with Texas A&M faculty members on real-life, relevant, hands-on research projects related to Qatar’s research challenges in autonomous vehicles, petroleum production, water desalination and wireless energy.

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The program introduced students to advanced topics in engineering and science while teaching important problem-solving skills. The students also learned how to communicate technical ideas and put these lessons to the test 30 June when they presented their individual projects and research findings to the faculty members. Hassan Zaki Abdulaziz, a Summer Engineering Academy Participant said that joining the summer engineering academy and working with the Mechanical Engineering faculty helped to identify all the requirements and needs to become a successful engineer, contributing to the development and the achievement of the National vision of the state of Qatar.

Dr. Nayef Alyafei, a graduate of Texas A&M at Qatar who is the first Qatari faculty member of the branch campus, mentored a Summer Engineering Academy team this year. He said he is proud of the students he mentored during the academy, which gives young Qataris a glimpse into what engineers do and the impact engineers can have on the world. "I am extremely happy with the students and their performance,” Alyafei said. “Although they are grade 11, they are showing us all the necessary raw skills to be excellent engineers in the future. I am very happy with this summer engineering academy experience as it is doing its job by letting the students experience how to be engineers and giving them this option to explore engineering before pursuing it as a career.”

SEA ran concurrently with the Future Engineers Program in which more than 30 Qatari students rising into grades 10 and 11 worked on projects related to space, including the design of a near-space weather balloon that the students launched from the Texas A&M Engineering Building 27 June. Students learned about atmospheric sciences from the Meteorology Department of the Civil Aviation Authority, which coordinated the balloon’s launch. The balloon took measurements, photos and observations as it rose into the outer atmosphere. The project teaches students about data relationships while demonstrating that scientific inquiry can be fun.

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The Future Engineers also designed tools that an astronaut might use in space, and the tools were 3-D printed in Texas A&M’s unique 3-D printing facilities. In designing the tools, the students met with and interviewed retired NASA astronaut Duane “Digger” Carey about his experiences in space and the kinds of tasks an astronaut might perform in zero gravity. Selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1996, Carey was the pilot of Space Shuttle mission STS-109 in 2002, a maintenance flight to the Hubble Space Telescope. STS-109 orbited the earth 165 times, traveling about 3.9 million miles.

Carey spoke to the students about his own humble beginnings and the value of his engineering education, and encouraged the students to never give up on their own goals. “These dreams and aspirations you have,” Carey said, “they can come true. They came true for me because I never gave up on my dreams and I never listened to the people who told me I would never achieve them.” Hissa Al Yahri said “the Future Engineers program was an interesting, informative and exciting program. We had the experience to explore what engineering is about and what are the specialties offered by Texas A&M University at Qatar.” Fatima Al Mohannadi also commented “through this program we got to launch a weather balloon, something we never thought we would get the chance to experience in a summer program.”

Fatima added, “having the chance to meet the astronaut Duane Carey was one of the best moments in the program. We were privileged to interview him and to ask him about his job as an astronaut and how can we employ that in our designs through the program”.