Posted on July 16, 2017

A team of high school students who investigated a phenomenon in the oil industry that can make it difficult to recover oil won “Best Engineering Research Project” in the third annual Summer Engineering Academy organized and hosted by Texas A&M University at Qatar and Maersk Oil Qatar.

The Summer Engineering Academy, an elite 10-day STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) enrichment program, is part of the Dhia: Engineering Leaders partnership between Texas A&M at Qatar and Maersk Oil Qatar that aims to attract young Qataris to STEM fields, which are critical to the success of the Qatar National Vision 2030.

The winning team comprised of Eric Frohlich, Fatima Alnajar, Mohab Bosila, Saidatul Zairin, Salma Ibrahim and Sara Al-Banna from Raba'a Al-Adawiya Secondary Girls School, International School of London-Qatar and International School of Choueifat. A team that designed a smart helmet to help monitor the health of Qatar’s construction workers during intense summer heat won the “Outstanding Technical Communication” award. Alya Alkawari, who won the “Best Presenter” award, said, “The Summer Engineering Academy provided me with the opportunity of exploring the STEM fields more than before, especially since this project emphasizes on a certain major offered at Texas A&M University at Qatar,” Alkawari said.

During the academy, 20 academically outstanding grade 11 students who were named Qatar National Vision Scholars worked with Texas A&M faculty members on real-life, hands-on research projects related to Qatar’s research challenges energy, environment, health care and cybersecurity. SEA aims to introduce 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 at the end of the program when they presented their individual projects and research findings to Texas A&M at Qatar faculty members who served as judges.

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Dr. Nayef Alyafei, assistant professor of petroleum engineering and himself a graduate of Texas A&M at Qatar, led the winning team with Dr. Mohamed Fadlelmula. Both said they were impressed with the progress the students had made during the two-week program. “As a teacher, my role is to make sure the next generation of scientists and engineers is inspired and that they do well,” Alyafei said. “These students were excited to learn and they liked what they learned, it’s so rewarding to see them appreciate the beauty of science and engineering.”

SEA ran concurrently with the Future Engineers Program in which more than 30 students rising into grades 10, 11 and 12 built desert emergency kits, including an emergency communications device, and investigated various water-purification technologies. During the 10-day program, the Future Engineers assembled a walkie-talkie called a “talkiepi,” which has a simple push-to-talk interface to communicate with other talkiepis in the channel. The walkie-talkie uses Raspberry Pi, a USB speakerphone, some basic electronic components and a 3D-printed case. The students soldered the electrical components themselves and used the branch campus’s unique 3D printing facilities to model and print the device’s enclosure.

In the chemical engineering labs, the students investigated water purity levels and purification technologies. Participants also brainstormed other tools and equipment that could be included in an emergency kit, and prepared a poster and presentation of their findings. Sara Al-Baker reflected on the program, and said, “It helps students choose their path, to see if they like engineering. I learned new skills as well like team-work and presentation skills from these programs.”