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Texas A&M at Qatar students attend third annual Humanitarian Engineering Workshop in the Netherlands

Published Jul 26, 2018

Twenty-five students from Texas A&M University at Qatar took part in the third International Workshop on Humanitarian Engineering in May at Leeuwarden and The Hague in the Netherlands.

The workshop is designed as a multidisciplinary immersive experience in which Texas A&M at Qatar engineering students collaborate with master’s students in Humanitarian Action at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) to learn about engineering techniques and applications specifically in context of humanitarian situations. Students are provided 30 hours of instruction on topics related to professional ethics, Big Data analysis, food security, and interdisciplinary and multicultural communication. Students also learn rapid prototyping techniques and use these skills to propose unique solutions to humanitarian crises.

The workshop was organized by Texas A&M at Qatar in collaboration with University of Groningen’s Campus Fryslan and the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA). Participating workshop instructors include faculty from the University of Leiden’s Peace Informatics Lab and Concordia University in Canada. Representatives from Royal Dutch Shell also gave lectures at the workshop.

The primary focus of the workshop is on the critical role engineers play in improving the technological capabilities of at-risk and disadvantaged communities. The workshop also provides Texas A&M at Qatar students the opportunity to understand the dynamics of the global humanitarian aid and relief industry.

Dr. Hassan Bashir, program director and associate professor in the Liberal Arts Program at Texas A&M at Qatar, said, “The Humanitarian Engineering Workshop is unique and the first of its kind in the region. It enables undergraduate engineering students to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of engineering as a vocation in today’s globalized world. The opportunity to work in collaboration with non-engineering graduate students to identify and resolve problems that are common to humanity broadens the intellectual horizons of our students.”

Mechanical engineering student Alaa Abdalla said, “The workshop helped me to understand the interdisciplinary nature of being an engineer and gave me an idea about something that I can pursue after my degree.”

During the workshop, multidisciplinary teams worked on identifying critical humanitarian problems and developing potential solutions using rapid prototyping techniques. For example, students formulated proposals for providing cyber connectivity in flooded regions, educating children in refugee camps and using 3-D printing technology to resolve health related concerns in remote regions. At the end of the workshop, multidisciplinary student groups presented their projects to a jury of workshop instructors.

Electrical and computer engineering student Leen AlHomoud said, “This workshop changed me in a way that I understood the importance of the humanitarian organizations that come in to help people who are in need. This experience made me want to ask more about the humanitarian action program because I am now interested in pursuing a master’s degree in this field.”

The International Humanitarian Engineering Workshop was co-founded and is co-directed by Bashir and Dr. Patrick Linke, professor and chair of the Chemical Engineering Program, executive director of graduate studies and holder of the Qatar Shell Professorship. A total of 122 students (62 from Texas A&M at Qatar and 60 from the University of Groningen) have participated in the workshops since 2016. Funding for the workshop comes from internal grants, industry support in Qatar — especially from QAPCO — and through contributions from Texas A&M at Qatar academic programs, students and faculty.